WILLIAMSPORT – Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) said he’s encouraged after convening the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on Wednesday to field testimony for a proposed ATV connector trail in Tiadaghton State Forest.
“The expansion of the ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot offers a unique opportunity to boost the economic vibrancy of our region and improve access to our greatest natural asset, the beautiful forests that blanket northcentral Pennsylvania,” Yaw said. “I thank all of our testifiers for their valuable insight into the lasting impact of this proposal.”
|Senate ERE Committee at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport on Dec. 8, 2021.
Photo Credit: Chris Guerrisi/Senate Republican Communications
Legislators authorized the first ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot in 2020 in response to the growing popularity of the vehicles for outdoor recreation in the region, ending a 17-year moratorium on new trails.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said the pilot’s first riding season, which lasted from July 16 until Sept. 26 and spanned trails in parts of Tioga and Potter counties, resulted in no “serious” accidents and caused no adverse impacts on nearby streams and forestland. Still, state officials said more studies must be conducted to understand the impacts of ATVs operating alongside vehicles on public roads.
Riders using the trail paid a permit fee to access the 250-mile system, DCNR said. Some 1,350 permits were issued during the first season to riders from as far west as Montana. The Central Mountains ATV Association testified that its 1,600-plus members and other responsible riders both respect the natural environment of the region and boost tourism and economic viability for businesses near the trails. The organization also plays an instrumental role in the construction, maintenance and rules enforcement of proposed connectors.
With the second riding season scheduled to open on Memorial Day, DCNR hopes to expand the pilot to include the Haneyville ATV trail and tie it into Tiadaghton State Forest, which covers more than 146,000 acres in Lycoming, Tioga, Potter, Clinton and Union counties.
Environmental groups and sportsmen organizations worry the trail expansion will increase erosion, degrade nearby streams and waterways, harm wildlife and plants and disturb the “wild character” that draws so many tourists to the region.
“I trust DCNR to balance the desire for greater ATV access with preservation of the surrounding forestland and waterways,” Yaw said. “This is our chance to create a safe and efficient trail system that boosts the enjoyment of our natural resources for visitors and residents alike.”
CONTACT: Nick Troutman, Chief of Staff, 717-787-3280