By Bob Quarteroni
Attack? Trespass? Violate?
That’s not what ATV is supposed to stand for but, sadly, far too often that’s the legacy of all-terrain vehicles on state game lands.
It’s a shame. And it’s also illegal.
It’s clear as can be on the Department of Natural Conservation and Resources “Places to Ride” web page:
“State Parks and State Game Lands are NOT open to ATVs.”
Which was little comfort when I wandered SGL 207 in Mountaintop, seeking the “beautiful unnamed lake” I had read about.
I found the lake. But I also found a rat’s nest of chewed up ATV trails, mud pooling in the holes and roots exposed, raw and angry looking.
This is inexcusable. There are more than enough places for responsible ATV riders to enjoy their “sport,” including our expansive state forests (there’s a complete list on the DCNR website).
It’s a serious problem, and not just locally, but across the country.
A story in an Athens, Ga., newspaper reported that “More than 83 percent of wildlife managers in a recent survey say that they have seen ‘resource damage to wildlife habitat’ caused by ATVs, following closely behind by 72 percent who cited ‘disruption of hunters during hunting season’ as another impact.”
And the Isaak Walton League found that “More than 57.2 percent of state fisheries managers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that ATVs ‘negatively impact fishing and fishing habitat in my state.’”
When I worked at Eckley Miner’s Village I had trouble comprehending just how many ATV trails, pools, eroded cliff banks and tortured hillsides had been carved out of the old coal lands – and the adjacent pristine forests.
I make no bones over the fact that I personally don’t like ATVs. When I’m out fishing a mountain trout stream on a beautiful day, enjoying the quiet, the noise and smell of a parade of ATVs intruding into my quiet little space does not make me happy.
But they can ride – legally – all over the place.
I just want them to at least keep off the state game lands and our beautiful state parks, the last and best bastions of natural privacy left to us.
While it’s probable that the vast majority ride by the rules, a small — but extremely visible — segment of the ridership have a wanton disregard for not only the laws, but for nature and for civility.
Motorcycle operators like to point out that perhaps only one percent of those riders cause any problems.
The trouble is that that one percent is so seemingly proud of what they do that they often wear “One Percenter” logos or sport the same tattoos.
Nevertheless, motorcyclists have made a clear and strong commitment to not only policing their own ranks but to show, by charity “runs,” fundraisers and other similar good works, that they are law-abiding citizens and good neighbors.
The ATV community must do the same.
As the DCNR says, “Every ATV and snowmobile rider must be an ambassador for the sport. Please give careful consideration to your effect on the trails, environments and others. The future of your sport depends on it.”
So here’s three simple alphabetical suggestions on how to make things better.
A: Address the problem, ATV operators, by letting any outlaws know that they are breaking the laws and hurting the reputation of reputable riders. Peer pressure can work wonders.
T: Teach young and upcoming riders the proper way to ride, legally and safely, and where they are allowed to ride.
V: Value the land by sticking to legal trails and paths.
A very good, thorough, overview on this, “Protecting the Trails,” can be found at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/atv/atvprotectingthetrails/index.htm.