Strategic Connections to Expand ATV Opportunities on State Game Lands

HARRISBURG – To encourage the better use of existing all-terrain vehicle trails and promote legal, safe ATV operation, the state Bureau of Forestry unveiled plans to develop a series of five key trail connections to expand riding opportunities for the growing legion of ATV riders in Pennsylvania.

Requiring construction into 2010 at a projected cost of $2.25 million, the “strategic connector” initiative was unveiled before the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ monthly meeting of the Snowmobile ATV Advisory Committee.

“Knowing many ATV riders yearn for long rides traversing new territory, our forestry specialists took a careful look at our existing 247 miles of state forest trails with an eye toward maximizing riding opportunities while minimizing environmental impact,” said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “By developing short links to existing state forest and private ATV trails, as well as township roads legally open to ATVs, the bureau has devised a plan that develops 29 miles of new, or armored, trails that will serve to expand riding terrain by 333 miles.”

The Secretary said projects would vary from reconfiguring 13 miles of existing trails within their existing footprint in Delaware State Forest in northeastern Pennsylvania, to adding a one-mile connector to north central Pennsylvania’s Susquehannock district, which would create a 151-mile system of township road riding opportunities.

“In addition, linking this proposed total of 29 miles of new trail in state forestlands to the already existing 72 miles of forestland trails in these selected forest districts would create ‘new’ riding opportunities totaling 290 miles,” said DiBerardinis.

The proposed projects and estimated costs, listed by estimated completion date, are:

-September 2008: 1-mile connector trail in Susquehannock State Forest; $5,000;
-December 2008: 1.5-mile addition to Sideling Hill trails in Buchanan State Forest; $20,000;
-December 2008: 20-mile enhancement/expansion to Jack’s Mountain trails in Bald Eagle State Forest; $200,000;
-December 2009: 6.6-mile addition to Bloody Skillet trails, Sproul State Forest;$1,500,000; and
-December 2010: 13-mile upgrade to Dixon Miller trails; Delaware State Forest; $500,000.

“In the Bald Eagle State Forest, the additional 20 miles of trail will come from better use, enhancing and stabilizing former fire breaks and skid trails,” DiBerardinis said. “It’s also part of our ongoing, statewide ATV trail restoration program created to remediate, rejuvenate and enhance the entire 247-mile ATV trail system by using advances in trail design developed over the last decade.

“While DCNR is investing more and more snowmobile/ATV funds into county agencies and the private sector to develop premiere, self-contained, riding opportunities at sites like the new 6,000-acre Rock Run Recreation Area in Cambria County, as well as smaller satellite sites, the department must not overlook its current 247-mile trail system on Bureau of Forestry property,” said DiBerardinis. “A dedicated program geared towards improving the existing trail system today will not only protect adjacent natural resources and save maintenance funds in the future, but will also create a more enjoyable, safer trail system for riders.

“In addition to increased sustainability, properly designed trails could also ease enforcement problems by enticing enthusiasts to stay on the designated trail system and reduce the amount of unauthorized, renegade travel on private and public lands.”

The five proposed projects would be financed principally through DCNR’s snowmobile/ATV fund, which relies on vehicle registration fees. The fund also supplies grants that help government agencies and riding enthusiasts buy land, develop plans and surveys, construct and maintain ATV and snowmobile trails, buy equipment, and conduct training relating to ATV and snowmobile use.

DCNR records show there were 237,133 registered ATV owners in Pennsylvania as of July 2, 2006.

Details on ATV rules and regulations, riding opportunities and trail maps can be found on DCNR’s Web site.

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