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Legislators Discuss Possibility Of ATV Trails

Should Western New York or the Southern Tier look into establishing all-terrain vehicle trails in the county? It’s something some area lawmakers believe should at least be explored.

During a recent Chautauqua County Legislature Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, Tim D’Angelo with the Kinzu Region ATV Association discussed the possibility.

He believes establishing ATV trails would be better as regional issue, rather than something just in Chautauqua County. D’Angelo noted the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreational Authority is a nine-county economic development project in West Virginia.

According to a study of the Economic and Fiscal Impact of the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, last year, more than 94,000 riding permits were issued, with 78,000 of them being from out of West Virginia.

Estimates of spending by non-local visitors is around $80 million. “That’s a big number. Do we have a lot of activities here that are capable of generating those types of numbers? I don’t know that we do,” D’Angelo said.

He cited a study by the New York Off Highway Recreational Vehicle Association that says within two hours of Chautauqua County, there are more than 500,000 ATVs and Utility Terrain Vehicles, sometimes called side by sides, with the owners looking for places to ride.

“I’m going to tell you, this could be $100 million into our region,” he said, adding that “region” is not just Chautauqua County. Instead, he envisions it being Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties, along with the Seneca Nation of Indians.

D’Angelo said he believes New York state can help by doing the same thing as it does with snowmobile fees, using that money to go back to organizations which maintain the trail system. Right now, ATV registration funds aren’t being used for that and UTVs can’t be registered in the state because they weight more than 1,000 pounds.

He would like to see that change. “Take a nominal fee registration fee for the side by sides and funnel that back to all the areas that are willing to do the work to develop these trails, along with grant money,” he said.

One of the differences D’Angelo noted between ATVs and snowmobiles is that snowmobiling is very weather dependent. “Snowmobiling has been a tough task for the last few years. I mean, can you count on January? Can you count on March? Maybe February,” he said.

ATVs, meanwhile, can be operated in New York a lot longer. D’Angelo recommends avoiding hunting season, winter and spring when the trails are muddy and can be easily damaged. Beyond that, the rest of the year is available.

D’Angelo believes the first step is to find areas where trails could go and then identify the landowners to see what their preferences are. Once they identify possible trail locations, then they could look into cost estimates and available grant funds.

D’Angelo said any sort of ATV trail system needs to be separate from snowmobile trails because ATVs require better foundation, especially with the potential for high volume traffic. “To make them sustainable, it’s not just bulldozing a property. Running a hundred ATVs or side by sides through an area is one thing; running a thousand through there is a whole different ball game. They really have to be built to withstand that, but thank goodness there’s money for it,” he said.

David Wilfong, R-Jamestown, talked about an ATV park outside of Bradford, Pa. He said a day pass costs $35. There’s places to buy food and there’s wash basins available for the vehicles. “There are sometimes you literally cannot pull in there, especially on your big weekends like Labor Day, Memorial Day, the ATVers come. So it is very lucrative,” he said.

He agrees with D’Angelo that ATVs wouldn’t work to simply use snowmobile trails. “The difference between an ATV trail and a snowmobile trail, we wait until the snow comes and it lays a nice layer down on the fields. In theory, the snowmobiles ride on top of it and they don’t do a lot of damage. ATVs are different because they have wheels that spin, so there’s a lot of maintenance,” Wilfong said.

Legislator Kevin Muldowney, R-Dunkirk, recommended D’Angelo meet with Mark Geise, deputy county executive of economic development and chief executive officer of the county Industrial Development Agency, to see it’s possible for ATV trails and find out what the next steps are.

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