NYSSA: LAWSUIT THREATENS TRAIL SAFETY
January 15, 2009, Long Lake, NY – The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) is raising an alarm about the recent lawsuit brought by an environmental group against the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and two other state agencies over the adoption of state trail maintenance and safety standards for snowmobiling in the Adirondack Park.
NYSSA Executive Director Dave Perkins is urging the APA, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to vigorously defend their actions to ensure that snowmobile trails are the safest they can be. “The new rules reflect the vast experience and knowledge of snowmobile trail maintenance that NYSSA shared with state decision makers throughout the multi-year development process,” Perkins said. “We have demonstrated that unsafe trail conditions can be mitigated without undue impact on the forest’s natural character.”
The Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction, and Maintenance Guidelines were adopted at the November 2009 APA meeting, allowing for the consideration and implementation of stalled Unit Management Plans (UMP)—plans that identify opportunities for recreational uses and consider the ability of the resources and ecosystems to accommodate such activity.
NYSSA fears that the lawsuit brought by the Adirondack Council may again put these plans on hold. “Most UMPs have been held from consideration for years until the APA could rule on specific snowmobile provisions,” Perkins explained. “Now, as a result of this lawsuit, these UMPs may be back on the shelf. This could have a chilling effect on the users of the forest preserve and the safety of snowmobiling families,” Perkins worried.
The Guidelines are a way to establish safe trails in the Adirondack Park on forest preserve lands that can be navigated by snowmobile. Establishing community connector trails allows significant economic benefit by bringing snowmobilers to community businesses. The Guidelines enjoy strong support from regional businesses, environmental groups and local elected officials. The action taken by the APA was done after more than five years of study and public participation in a process that included all stakeholders
NYSSA applauds the APA’s rules relative to trail width, particularly with respect to steep terrain and curves. The utilization of tracked groomers is necessary for proper trail maintenance to create safe, navigable trails. Trails that are of appropriate width will accommodate a variety of tracked groomers that will make trails with the desired meandering character safer to use. Tracked groomers require fewer grooming trips, and are more fuel efficient than utility snowmobiles used to groom trails. NYSSA believes that tracked groomers are much more environmentally friendly.
The Guidelines also ensure that the environment and natural character of the Park is protected. Trail routes are to be located nearer motorized routes that are either highways or bodies of water than in previous trail siting documents or policies, changes supported by NYSSA.
NYSSA was an active participant in field work that led to the development of the Guidelines. “It is unfortunate that not all stakeholders chose to participate. The Adirondack Council seems to have taken a position that whatever came out of the process would be hit with a lawsuit,” Perkins said. “The APA provided extensive opportunity for the public to comment on the Guidelines as this project has been ongoing for several years. Let’s hope that this obstructionist action by the Adirondack Council does not have tragic results for snowmobile safety,” Perkins concluded.
Founded in 1975, NYSSA is the voice of more than 100,000 snowmobilers in New York State, and provides support for the 230 local clubs maintaining over 11,000 miles of local snowmobile and multiuse trails. Visit NYSSA online at www.nysnowmobiler.com .
For more information:
Dave Perkins, NYSSA Executive Director
PO Box 612, Long Lake, NY 12847-0612
Tel. 518-624-3849, Fax 518-624-2441