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Lewis legislators, business owners, law enforcement talk Snirt Run safety

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Board of Legislators Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday night garnered a crowd of business owners, law enforcement officials and supporters of all-terrain vehicle riding to discuss past safety problems involving the annual Snirt Run and how better to manage them in the future.

While committee Chairman Lawrence L. Dolhof, R-Lyons Falls, said the meeting was called to discuss the safety of all recreational events, including other ATV poker runs in the county, most of the conversation focused on the coming Snirt Run, as last year’s event posed multiple problems.

Mr. Dolhof also noted that a $5 permit fee added on to the Snirt Run has been discussed but has been tabled, as the priority of the meeting was safety.

A handout at the meeting titled “Points of Discussion,” however, did list “Event Permit/Approval.”

Eight legislators in attendance heard complaints as well as ideas on how to improve the Snirt Run, which is held on the second Saturday in April each year.

Suggestions for better signs, more volunteers, adequate barricades and better maps were delivered to Snirt Run organizer Gary R. Stinson, Barnes Corners Sno-Pals president.

Mr. Stinson said he is working to get more volunteers and could increase signage. Many of last year’s issues were weather related, as snow caused many riders to get stranded, requiring emergency rescue.

In the works for this year’s event are vehicles stationed at Flat Rock Inn to pull out ATVs if they get stuck.

Mr. Stinson said he also is working with affected towns to plow areas of deep snow that could pose a risk.

Removing snow from the seasonal roads included in the event is expected to reduce the number of riders going off the approved route, minimizing damage to adjacent properties.

Because many of the riders who required rescue last year were off the approved route, hours after the event’s end, the group discussed how to prevent riders from continuing into the night.

The possibility of moving the date of the Snirt Run to May was suggested, though it was quickly dismissed as warmer weather could pose additional safety problems such as more riders on the then-opened trail system and spring turkey hunting season.

Mr. Stinson said the April date was chosen on purpose in hopes that remaining snow would slow riders down.

When damage to private property was discussed, Mr. Stinson said, “We repair and pay for all of our damages.”

Last year was a particularly bad year for damage because of riders traveling off the roads and into fields. Mr. Stinson’s group reseeded a large area in Lyons Falls and came to a financial settlement with a farmer whose alfalfa field was damaged.

Michael Houppert, owner of Ridgeview Inn, Lowville, discussed an area adjacent to his restaurant that was heavily damaged last year.

Plans already are in place to prevent such damage next year.

Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael K. Leviker echoed the crowd’s concerns about damage last year, but also said that statistically the event is safe.

In the past 10 years, nearly 17,500 people have registered for the ride. He reported minimal accidents have occurred. One fatality took place, caused by a heart attack.

He did say the Sheriff’s Department would not be able to patrol the event without the assistance of other agencies, which gather weeks before the event each year to coordinate.

Legislators asked the group to continue to give feedback and ideas and said they planned to meet again to improve future events.

“This is a good start,” said Legislator Bryan D. Moser, R-Kirschnerville. “We’ll keep learning and improving as we go.”

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