In what can only be described as a victory for sanity, the Lewis County Legislature on Tuesday rejected the most recent effort to add to the county’s all-terrain-vehicle road system.
Five legislators finally agreed that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different result, and voted against adding more ATV “trail” connections to Lewis County bars, taverns and convenience stores. They did this because every challenge to their unusual system of connecting long stretches of public highway to laughably minuscule segments of off-road trails has been upheld by the courts.
A group of legislators finally decided enough is enough, at least as far as losing lawsuits goes. Admittedly, half of the Legislature continues to think that breaking state law is just fine as long as someone comes up with an economic justification to do so. But it’s hard to defend lining the pockets of a small group of business owners at the expense of conducting public business in a lawful way.
If you look at the beneficiaries of the failed effort to expand the county’s road network open to ATV traffic, you find only bars, restaurants and a convenience store. To achieve this, the plan called for convoluted combinations of private “trails” — some only 500 feet long and adjacent to a highway — and public road openings. In one case, the plan called for creating a “trail” by linking a public highway to a public highway, which was NEVER going to withstand a legal challenge.
The ATV crowd, including half the Legislature and trails coordinator Bob Diehl, don’t get why the Gang of Five voted their latest nonsense down. This is because they don’t understand that no public body should be making policy contrary to state law simply because they want to.
A video shot during the county’s most recent Snirt Run that was posted on YouTube seems to embody the thinking of the pro-trail legislators. In it, some young hotshot riders are shown wilfully breaking the law by skirting around barricades to go onto posted land, going off trail and tearing through, presumably, someone’s private woodlot and finding mud holes off trail in which to play. The object of the video turns to the camera and says “It ain’t illegal if they don’t catch you!”
This seems to be the byword of Mr. Diehl, Legislator Richard Lucas and Legislature Chairman Jack Bush. Their determination that whatever they think they want to do is OK puts one in mind of a spoiled youngster who has never been told “No!”
In fact, in an interview on TV-7 News, Mr. Bush told the reporter “We can fix this.”
Jack, nothing is broken. Your misguided effort to open more public highways to ATV traffic failed on a legitimate vote of the Legislature. You lost, but that doesn’t mean that something has to be repaired with this proposal.
If the Legislature wants to “fix” something, they should start with the basic premise of the trail system: it should not be long stretches of public highway artfully linked by tiny segments of private-land trails. If all the effort that has been put into coming up with sneaky ways to add to the ATV road system were instead put into an effort to develop significant and enjoyable off-road trail networks, everyone would benefit.
As it is now, only the lawyers and bar owners really make out. So the Gang of Five did a good thing this week, and for the good of the county, they should stand their ground and force the changes that will result in a legitimate — and legal — ATV trail system.