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Audience divided on ATV pilot program’s possible expansion

Environmental groups came out in opposition to the possible expansion of ATV traffic through the forest lands of northcentral Pennsylvania during a state Senate hearing Wednesday at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

ATV advocates, however, pointed to the economic benefits and family friendly aspects of the outdoor recreation enjoyed by many people throughout the state.

A pilot program for the Tiadaghton State Forest ATV Pilot Connector running northwest along Route 44 from near Haneyville into Potter County was introduced in 2021.

Clinton County Commissioner Jeff Snyder testified that there is room for any one of various outdoor recreational pursuits amidst the hundreds of thousands of acres in his county for people to enjoy.

“Don’t tell me you can’t have ATV trails,” he said.

He dismissed the notion that members of ATV clubs tear up roads.

But people such as Cynthia Bower, a member of Pine Creek Preservation Association, made no bones about her feelings about ATV traffic in the wild lands of the region.

People who live and work in the Pine Creek Valley, she said, see it as a special place and want to keep it that way.

In a presentation, she displayed images of trails that resulted in ruts and erosion.

She said she fears ATV traffic along wild trout streams and the damage posed to fish populations.

“We oppose the ATV pilot connector,” she said.

Clinton Ivins, a member of Slate Run Sportsmen, also stated his opposition.

He said the ATV connector will only lead to an expansion of such recreational activity.

“ATV expansion is inevitable but that doesn’t mean it has to happen everywhere,” he said.

Henry Sorgen, president of Central Mountain ATV Association, Inc., touted the benefits of ATVs.

He noted that ATV recreation is an especially big industry in West Virginia.

“That’s what we want to bring to northcentral Pennsylvania,” he said.

Sorgen said his organization prides itself on self-policing and has spent money to fix yards in the few instances that club members have torn up properties.

The people who cause problems with ATVs represent a very small minority, he noted.

Jason Albright, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources forest field operations manager, said the agency is monitoring and managing ATV activity with consideration of its impacts on the environment, the economy and other factors.

Timothy Schaeffer, executive director, state Fish and Boat Commission, said impacts to fishing and aquatic life especially with wild trout streams are being considered.

“Many of these streams overlap ATV expansion,” he said.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said salt from roads washing into streams poses some of the greatest negative impact to waterways.

State Sen. Chris Dush, R-Wellsboro, said people with physical limitations who might otherwise access the great outdoors can benefit from ATV use.

“This is an inclusionary benefit for people who have disabilities,” he said.

State Sen. Scott E. Hutchinson, R-Oil City, said, “We should be about encouraging use of the outdoors as much as possible.”

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