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Lewis officials to solicit club suggestions on ATV trail projects

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County officials plan to set aside $50,000 from all-terrain vehicle permit fees for trail maintenance this year, with local ATV clubs asked to suggest projects for funding.

“We’ll do what we can,” new county Recreational Trail Coordinator Jacqueline L. Mahoney said at a special legislative Economic Development Committee meeting Friday afternoon.

While clubs have in the past received direct funding through the permit program that they could use toward their own trail projects, this year’s change eliminating clubs’ share of fee revenues means all program funding will go to county coffers. Friday’s session was called to come up with a policy designed to help clubs continue to do trail work in spite of the loss of direct funding.

Committee Chairman Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, suggested that ATV clubs be aided on a “per-project basis,” with clubs directed to submit trail maintenance and development proposals to Mrs. Mahoney.

“You’re going to have to prioritize,” Mr. Lucas told the trail coordinator.

Mrs. Mahoney would then coordinate times for county summer employees and club volunteers to handle priority projects, with available permit funding to be used to cover material, sign and equipment costs, she said.

While creating new trails and lessening dependence on opened roads is important, it is essential to first “make sure we can maintain what we have off-road” with the limited funds available and quickly address any environmental issues, Mr. Lucas said. “We want to stay on the good on that side,” he said.

Any trail repairs related to wetlands would obviously be the top priority, with other projects pushed back if the need arises, Mrs. Mahoney said.

“It’s scheduling,” she said.

Committee members also directed the trail coordinator to address a request from the Highmarket ATV Club for permit money to help pay for a bridge project, even though it was completed before the funding policy was set.

Distribution of permit funds to clubs based on their off-road trail mileage was also discussed, but Mr. Lucas suggested that direct funding of projects would be more effective, given the limited funding now available through permit fees.

Since the inception of the county’s permit-based ATV trail system in 2009, the county budget annually anticipates $80,000 in program receipts, with the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce receiving a 10 percent administrative fee to sell the permits.

Permits had cost $40 for an ATV owned by a member of a club in the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association and $80 for a machine owned by a nonmember, giving riders an incentive to buy a $25 club membership and bolstering membership rolls.

However, lawmakers in March voted to change the ATV permit fee to $65 and eliminate any club member discounts, with the intent of paying clubs only for trail work they complete.

While the move should increase county revenues dedicated to ATV trail funding, legislators are concerned about a decline in permit sales stemming from club dissatisfaction over the switch and hope the new policy will renew club support for the permit system.

In coming years, the legislative committee suggested that 70 percent of permit funds be retained for trail work, with 10 percent apiece set aside for data processing/advertising, law enforcement/education and administration through the chamber.

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