DCNR ATV Trail Expansion Pilot Program and the North Central ATV Initiative

January 28, 2022

The DCNR ATV Trail Expansion Pilot Program got our attention sometime mid-2021. We have taken a position in opposition to the North Central ATV Initiative which wants to open trails into areas that directly threaten Slate and Trout Runs and areas in the Pine Creek Valley. The quality of experience most everyone comes here for will degrade if the NC ATV Initiative gets approved.

The NC ATV Initiative is outlined on a map at this link:

http://cmatva.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021-TRAIL_RESYMBOLIZED-Resize-2021-10-18.pdf

John Childe, from the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF), has taken up the challenge and had started litigation challenging the implementation of the NC ATV Initiative from a PA Constitutional point of view. The PA Constitution, Article 1, Section 27. states:

“§ 27.  Natural resources and the public estate.

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

(May 18, 1971, P.L.769, J.R.3)”

ATV use is an example of high-impact recreational use. We believe the Pine Creek Valley needs Article1, Section 27 to stand firmly as the justification to not allow ATVs to roam over environmentally pristine areas of the state.

Our ‘Opposition Letter’ was sent it to Governor Wolf, US Representatives Clint Owlett & Joe Hamm and to US Senator Gene Yaw. Additionally we sent the letters to several in the PA DCNR – Cindy Adams Dunn, DCNR Secretary, Ellen Shultzabarger, PA State Forester & Director Bureau of Forestry, Tom Casilio, Tiadaghton State Forest Manager. Our opposition letter follows:

June 21, 2021

The Honorable Tom Wolf

Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Office of the Governor

508 Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg, PA 17120

RE: ATV Trail Initiative in Tiadaghton State Forest

Dear Governor Wolf,

Slate Run Sportsmen is a conservation organization started almost 70 years ago by a group of fly fishermen concerned with the conditions that existed in Slate Run at the time. Our organization currently has approximately 130 members. We are concerned with the conservation and environmental protection of the Slate Run area and wish to express our position regarding the planned expansion of ATV trails that are being enacted by the PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry as part of the pilot ATV trail initiative within the Slate Run area in the Pine Creek watershed.

Slate Run Sportsmen is opposed to the planned expansion of ATV trails into any portion of the Slate Run and Cedar Run watersheds, and particularly on the Manor Fork Road and other trails and roads within the Slate Run and contiguous watersheds. We strongly ask the PA DCNR to restrict any further consideration of ATV trail expansion in these areas.

We call your attention to the fact that the Tiadaghton State Forest and Lycoming County were not included in the recent Fiscal Code mandate to create a pilot ATV trail network.

We Need Places without ATVs

While our position here addresses the immediate pilot ATV trail extensions, our position speaks to the premise supported by previous studies and recommendations conducted by the PA DCNR. Specifically, that the Pine Creek Valley, and especially the Slate Run watershed and its surrounding area, is a crown jewel in Pennsylvania’s state forest system.  As such, its unique and special wild and scenic character needs to be managed and protected for low impact recreation which does not degrade its signature attributes. The constitution of our Commonwealth requires that it act as a trustee of its natural resources. Purposely degrading its most wild and scenic forests through high impact intrusive recreation such as ATV trail expansion into wild areas is not consistent with that role.

The Slate Run and Cedar Run portions of the Pine Creek watershed in Lycoming and Tioga Counties are a unique piece of the “Pennsylvania Wilds” where people can get away from the noise and dust and simply enjoy what a place was like before motorized vehicles existed. It is used and cherished by anglers, day-hikers, backpackers, hunters, bird-watchers, outdoor photographers, mountain bicyclists, and primitive campers. These recreational users share a desire for quiet appreciation of nature in more pristine forest environments. Adding the noise, exhaust, dust and deterioration of the trails and forestry roads with ATV traffic will surely detract from the peaceful forest character found today.  Hikers will experience a much less pleasurable outing when ATV traffic is encountered; wildlife will seek solitude deeper into the forests.

Forestry roads and trails will degrade due to ATV use and will require extensive and expensive additional maintenance and management costs. Rutted trails and roads cause severe erosion, a major source of stream sedimentation in waters situated along ATV trails. Manor Fork Road parallels the Manor Fork of Slate Run. Silted water degrades stream habitat for trout and its aquatic food sources.  

Safety

Regarding ATV use on forestry roads, it is critical that safety issues concerning interaction of ATVs and automobiles be fully considered. This should be a top priority when considering ATV trail expansion. Slate Run, Manor Fork, and Francis Roads are frequently used between March and November by nature enthusiasts and cabin owners. These slippery gravel roads are narrow, bounded by steep cliffs, and contain a number of blind curves. It is challenging enough with the current traffic to safely navigate them. The addition of ATVs on portions of these roads would create the real potential for safety issues, including operator confrontations and crashes. Keep in mind that it is not unusual at all for hikers, backpackers and mountain bicyclists to use the roads as well. There are too many places that exist which will surely result in accidents. The area is lacking in adequate emergency services for timely response, and we do not think that the seriousness of this aspect has been considered with enough magnitude.

Slate Run Sportsmen knows that many ATV riders are law abiding people that drive reasonably and enjoy their time riding on the trails. We respect those that ride responsibly on the existing trails existing prior to this proposed expansion. However, we need to protect the special places in our Commonwealth where its citizens and visitors can get away from urban noise, dust, and pollution.  The Slate Run and Cedar Run areas are the epitome of such quiet natural places that need to continue to exist as such. There does not need to be interconnections of ATV trails blanketing the entire state.

From the DCNR report, Pine Creek Valley, Early Action Recommendations, August 2005, it was stated: “We overwhelmingly heard that protection of the character of Pine Creek is critical. The people that live and work here want to keep it a special place…”.  The Slate Run Sportsmen wholeheartedly support this principle and oppose the expansion of ATVs trails which will not protect the valuable wild character of this unique area of Pennsylvania.

Sincerely,

Joe Lemmon

President, Slate Run Sportsmen

c.         Thomas Casilio, Tiadaghton State Forest

Ellen Shultzabarger, Director Bureau of Forestry

Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary PA DCNR

Hon. Joe Hamm, PA State Legislator

Hon. Clint Owlett, PA State Legislator

Hon. Gene Yaw, PA State Senator

Do You Want to Provide Feedback Opposing the ATV Trail Expansion?

If you would like to write a letter stating your position on the ATV Trail Expansion issue, you can find your Representative or Senator at the following link: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

You can either enter your address or click on the county in Pennsylvania where you reside and it will pull up the list of your Representatives and Senator. Click on their names and it will provide their mailing address.

The following link, from the “Humane PA” website, lists what I believe are the current PA Representatives phone numbers and email addresses:

https://humane-pa.org/resources/pa-legislators-e-mail-addresses/

The current DCNR Executive Staff – DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry, John Norbeck, Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services, Lauren Imgrund, Deputy Secretary for Administration, Michael Walsh, Chief Counsel, Audrey Feinman Miner are listed here:

https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/about/Pages/default.aspx

The link below uses a form where you will be asked to leave your name, address, phone number and email address. The “Contact us” button appears at the bottom of the Executive Staff page (link above) – the following link (below) takes you directly to it:

https://pacedcitpowerapps.powerappsportals.us/services/dcnr-contact-us/

We at SRS oppose ATV trail network expansion into the Slate Run and Cedar Run areas. Some of the proposed trails will directly affect Manor Fork and Trout Run. If you do not like the idea of ATV traffic ruining the pristine nature that we’ve come to expect in the Pine Creek Valley, we encourage you to speak up now to try and influence the Representatives, Senators and the PA DCNR that are considering making these trails permanent.

The following are NOT links – copy & paste them in your ‘send to:’ line in YOUR email provider.

Senator Gene Yaw – gyaw@pasen.gov

Joe Hamm – jhamm@pahousegop.com

Clint Owlett – cowlett@pahousegop.com

December 9, 2021

Yesterday we sent out a last minute plea to go to the DCNR website to take a survey concerning the ATV Expansion that has been imposed. In case you did NOT receive the email from us, this is the link to where you can take the 16 question survey and let your voice be heard about this issue – https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Recreation/WhatToDo/ATVRiding/pages/default.aspx

Click on that link above and scroll down to this section (below):

Click on the link circled in red and you’ll be directed to the survey. You only have till Friday, December 10, 2021 to leave your comments. We apologize for the late notice of this but felt we needed to communicate this urgently in order to give you the chance to express how you feel about the ATV Expansion program the DCNR has implemented.

It doesn’t take long to fill out so please consider leaving some feedback to the DCNR about this issue. Thank you

August 11, 2021

SRS has recently sent out to it’s membership (who have previously supplied their email addresses), a plea – to please consider joining us in opposition to the Northcentral ATV Initiative. The PA DCNR has enacted and implemented their “ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot Program” (referred to as the Pilot Program) on July 16, 2021. But it is the “North Central ATV Initiative” that will continue even after the Pilot Program period expires in roughly 2 years – and we need to keep being diligent in opposing the possibility of more proposed trails that intrude into the Pine Creek Valley from that ‘Initiative’.

Currently, the Pilot Program is proposing to open some previously closed roads in the Trout Run and Lebo Vista areas. Additionally, the Hanneyville area ‘connector’ will also be included in the Pilot Program.

Manor Fork Road is being proposed for ATV traffic through the “North Central ATV Initiative”. I am not sure if it is part of the Pilot Program or the ATV Initiative – but either way, it is being proposed to be open for ATV use. Much more dust and erosion will take place when high impact ATV traffic is allowed to be used on that road. This road parallels Manor Fork which empties into Slate Run. The impact to Manor Fork will be immediate. The dust and erosion will dump sediment into Manor Fork choking the spawning gravel beds with so much slit that natural reproduction of brook and brown trout will be severely and negatively impacted. This must not be allowed to happen to Slate Run and the Pine Creek watershed!

The DCNR news release announced the Pilot Program – included in the release:

“DCNR will be gathering public input throughout the two-year period through a variety of methods, including webinars, surveys, comment cards, public meetings and advisory committees. To comment on the ATV Regional Trail Connector pilot program, please send an email to: RA-NR-ATV-Pilot@pa.gov” *

While this statement seems to indicate that the DCNR will be taking public comment throughout the 2 year ‘pilot’ period – the last sentence seems to only be asking for comment on the pilot program. I’d think you could make comment on the entire ATV Initiative at this link also – I hope!

You can certainly send any of your concerns, thoughts, opposition to your representatives (mentioned in the email sent to all email SRS members) however, we need the PA DCNR to hear from you right now through the email address mentioned above*.

Please consider expressing your opposition, concerns, and observations regarding ATV use in the Pine Creek Valley. The very nature of the Pine Creek Valley is low impact recreation. Everyone who loves the Pine Creek Valley should not allow this high impact development to happen and you need to speak up now in order to possibly influence this issue.

Keep this from being negatively impacted!