ATVs have been growing wildly in popularity the last decade and enthusiasts have been organizing more clubs and rallies in an effort to boost their sport.
But one of the biggest North Country events, the “SNIRT” gathering in Lewis County and the Tug HIll is drawing increasing fire for what critics (and some participants) describe as unsafe, and lawless behavior.
The Watertown Daily Times reports that the event last Saturday attracted roughly 3,000 riders, but also produced at least three accidents and a laundry list of citations.
Police agencies did a good job of coordinated enforcement, [Lewis County Sheriff's Department parks and recreation officer Michael] Leviker said.
However, the event’s widespread nature made that difficult, parking along some back roads left driving lanes narrow and some snow-covered seasonal roads were essentially impossible to patrol, he said.
“There are some things that need to be looked at,” Mr. Leviker said.
The Adirondack Almanack quotes a letter from DEC Division of Lands and Forests Director Rob Davies, chastising organizers for riding in inappropriate areas.
“While we appreciate the efforts you have made to maintain some control over participants, enforcement personnel have reported considerable problems associated with encroachment/trespass on private and public lands and Vehicle and Traffic Law violations including drinking and driving.”
Davies may be responding to Youtube videos from past years that appear to show ATV riders ignoring private property boundaries, and roaring through wetlands.
Here’s an example from SNIRT RUN 2010 that really has to be seen to be believed.
And in this video, a SNIRT participant brags about trying to flee from a police officers trying to enforce traffic rules.
“Thought we could out run em,” he writes, in the accompanying Youtube text.
“Was headed for the trail (almost made it) and got blocked right in front of Tuh Hill Inn Hook & Ladder. Coulda went around but they had us.”
While talking with DEC officers, the rider jokes that stop signs are “stoptional.”
This event has also come under fire from at least one green group – the Adirondack Council has urged organizers to keep the SNIRT event in the Tug Hill region, out of the Adirondack Park.
Here’s Council executive director Brian Houseal, quoted in the Watertown Daily Times.
“[I]f you continue to refuse to abide by state law or to conduct the required environmental review, the Adirondack Council will be placed in an untenable position. We will be forced to consider seeking a court order to stop the event in the future, in an effort to prevent further damage to the forests and wetlands of the Adirondack Park.”
I’d particularly like to hear thoughts about this from 4-wheel enthusiasts. These videos in particular — taken by riders themselves — are pretty brutal.
You can see people drinking, speeding, riding recklessly, plowing through wetlands, bragging about lawlessness, and all during an organized event. What does this say about the sport and its future? As always, comments welcome.