Morning Read: 4-wheeler “SNIRT” rally in Tug Hill-Lewis County draws fire

Source: Youtube via Adirondack Almanack

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.

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74 Comments on “Morning Read: 4-wheeler “SNIRT” rally in Tug Hill-Lewis County draws fire”

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  1. Solidago says:

    What’s the problem with what they’re doing in the SNIRT RUN 2010 video? That waterway looks navigable-in-fact to me. Why isn’t the state going after the property owner for putting up those intimidating and harassing signs? The environmental impact of this can’t be any worse than a log drive. I thought the DEC decided that there is nothing more important than the recreational exploitation of our wetlands?

  2. Mervel says:

    I don’t find the video that extreme. Looks like business as usual, plus I think the women was drinking Blue Lite. What do people think happen at giant ATV gatherings? Punch and cookies?

  3. Pete Klein says:

    A big problem with ATVs is the way the manufacturers promote them. Their ads scream out, “Go out and have some fun by trashing the environment!”
    The big toy for adults does have some practical uses but these uses are not the reason most people buy them. They want to have fun, fun, fun while the DEC isn’t looking.
    Of course a six pack always adds to the fun, fun, fun.

  4. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Yes, it’s business as usual in Lewis County. If the activity is ATV or snowmobile related, we’ll pretty much allow any behavior. On top of that, the county pays out of its own pocket to police such activities. All of which I have no problem with as I get the economic impact these activities generate.

    My issue is that the county leadership seems to have a double standard in place when it comes to activities such as the now defunct (in Lewis County anyway) Moe. down festival. That particular event was ran out of Turin because the venue owner and promoter refused to pay the 6 figure “fee” the country demanded of them to police the event. This despite the fact that the promoter had always hired its own security and never requested the massive police presence the country felt necessary to insist they have on site due to bad behavior.

    So I can only assume the local bars and restaurants will now be required to pitch in toward the costs of policing the “SNIRT” event since we’re seeing signs of some unlawful and bad behavior. Only seems fair….

  5. Bret4207 says:

    I have always maintained that when you put a normally sober and responsible person on an ATV, jet ski, hot snowmobile, crotch rocket bike, etc they instantly get a cranial/rectal inversion and become a monster. That being said, I have to agree with Solidago.

  6. oa says:

    Proof that America is, at heart, wicked and doomed.

  7. Paul says:

    I agree with Solidago’s comment above. When I saw this Almanack article I immediately saw a huge double standard. First I think this event is ridiculous, and probably dangerous, and I don’t condone any of it. But when I saw the part about the guys crossing a “posted wetland” I could not help but see that this is very similar to what Phil Brown and the Adirondack Explorer (and you Brian) were doing on their trip up posted waters on Shingle Shanty Brook. Both of these activities are recreational, both are on sensitive wetland waterways. Both have environmental impacts (albeit one perhaps more than the other). So if this wetland is adjacent to and has a public access point you could easily surmise that this waterway is open for travel and trade under the common law right of navigation. The type of craft is not restricted under the law. This guy could just have easily been riding one of these new amphibious ATV’s, or even one of James Bond’s old car boat combos. This is just one more debate about how to expand recreational opportunities in the Adirondacks at the expense of the environment. Does Brian Houseal feel that his group may need to seek a court order to stop the possibility of large groups of recreational paddlers from damaging wetlands in and around Shingle Shanty Brook? Of course not his groups just supports one type of recreation and not another. Let’s start having an honest debate about what the real issues are.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Two reactions:

    1. The comparison of this activity — riding 4-wheelers through wetlands — to paddling is just ludicrous. It’s such a ridiculous stretch that I’m crediting you guys with satire here. I mean, really. It’s fine to think that paddlers are violating private property rights when they pass through Shingle Shanty. Fair enough. But to compare the obvious destruction going on here to that is silly. Really…

    2. You can’t talk about shooting people in the In Box comment section, even in jest. Comments like that will be deleted…

    Brian, NCPR

  9. Walker says:

    “Both have environmental impacts”

    Paul, I defy you to find the environmental impact of a canoe traversing a stream.

    As for the Brown court case, yes, in theory if you can find a stream where it is legal to enter it, legal to exit it, and it provides a through-route shallow enough for an ATV to run the route, a verdict favoring Brown could open up this can of worms (conditions which certainly do NOT apply to the Shingle Shanty). If that comes to pass, we will have to live with it or find ways to cope with it. It won’t be the first time– there certainly must be private property owners who live along legal snowmobile trails who rue the day that snowmobiles were invented, and lakeshore owners who fervently wish the ATV never existed. How about those lovely old farms you see as you speed through their pastures on the Interstate? Stuff happens. But the law is the law, not a popularity contest.

  10. Paul says:

    Brian, First of all I am not suggesting here that paddlers are violating private property rights. Nor am I equating the two activities as far as their capacity to damage the environment (I said that in my comment). You are missing the point entirely. Both activities have an impact on the environment. Folks like the Adirondack Council just support one and not the other. If you don’t think that recreational hiking and paddling have a negative impact on the environment than you have not spent much time in places like the High Peaks Wilderness or the St. Regis Canoe area on a busy summer weekend (and I think you probably have). To criticize this activity and to promote the other is simply a double standard. How can you see it any other way? And to want to promote that activity, or this activity at the same time, onto private land seems to go against the mission of the Council to protect sensitive environmental areas. I guess you can try and justify one by saying that it has less environmental impact but the double standard is still there.

  11. Keith Silliman says:

    The damage you can do at this time of year is tremendous. Even hikers are asked to refrain from hiking in the high peaks until the ground hardens.

    I use a John Deere Gator to access a hunting camp in the Northern Adirondacks. Lyme Timber has closed all logging roads until May, to avoid damage. This is just good common sense.

    What I see here is long-term damage resulting from a momentary thrill. Not good.

  12. Paul says:

    Walker, this summer go take a paddle into Bog pond in the St. Regis canoe areas. Take a look at how the paddles going thorough there have ripped the wetland plants up and made the “encroaching” wetland vegetation into “receding” wetland vegetation. Then go to St. Regis pond and watch a group of 10 or 12 canoes as they slowly destroy the islands on the pond or the carries as they go from pond to pond. I personally don’t have a big problem with this activity since it is on public land but to pretend there is no impact is just ludicrous.

    “As for the Brown court case, yes, in theory if you can find a stream where it is legal to enter it, legal to exit it, and it provides a through-route shallow enough for an ATV to run the route, a verdict favoring Brown could open up this can of worms”

    Walker just look at the pictures in the article. The rider has a legal entry point from the road. So as an owner can you only stop the guy on the ATV or can you stop the paddler also? Neither right?

  13. verplanck says:

    Paul, Bret and Solidago,

    Har de har har. Your ‘wit’ has left me nearly speechless. Do we, the rational commenters of this blog, really have to point out the glaring differences between motorized vehicles and paddlecraft?

    I’m glad no one has dragged out the ‘few bad apples’ card yet, and admits that this IS what ATV riding is all about. Doin’ donuts, drinkin’ brews, and playing in the mud.

    Moving on – Clapton/Haynes, that’s the reason why moe.down was moved? What a shame, Turin was an awesome venue for the festival. I had a couple great years there, and I’m sure the people coming in spent a ton of money in the otherwise sleepy neighborhood.

  14. Paul says:

    verplanck, I think you are just fooling yourself. Again, I never said the two were equal as far as their capacity to damage the environment. But if you think that one has no impact you need to spend more time in some heavily paddled waters especially ones that are shallow and in close proximity to wetland vegetation (see my example above). Again, the differences are obvious and the similarities are obvious as well. Some people simply want to ignore the similarities if it might limit their ability to do their favored activity.

  15. Paul says:

    And Walker this is a “can of worms” and I expect that this will be raised at trial if Phil’s case gets there.

  16. dave says:

    ATVs and paddling.

    An absolutely absurd comparison on every level.

    Bringing it up to make a point was one thing.

    Continuing to defend and try to justify it is another thing.

    Not the finest of moments for reasonable In Box discussions.

  17. hermit thrush says:

    dear paul,

    i can only genuinely speak for myself, but i think all of the “rational commenters,” to use verplanck’s phrase, around here would concede that canoeists have a nonzero impact. but the point is that that impact is way way way less than the impact of atvs. i for one accept your point that there are similarities, but i think you’re also guilty of really downplaying the differences.

  18. verplanck says:


    ATV’s go off-road; paddlers use pre-defined portage paths. Apples and oranges. I’ve paddled the St. Regis area numerous times. The wetlands look healthy to me.

    It is clear to everyone here you are willfully obfuscating the issue. Stop it. This blog is better than that.

  19. Paul says:

    Dave, You to are missing the point entirely. Both are recreational activities. Both can damage the environment when left unchecked. Both points of fact that I would be happy to concede if someone wants to try. This story is an excellent example of where ATV’s can really do some damage when they are not operated on a properly designed road or trail. In my opinion the only accepatble use of an ATV in the Adirondacks as far as “riding” is on roads where there are already cars and trucks, and they should probobly have treads more like turf tread on a tractor.

    Please explain to me why my example of wetland damage in Bog pond is not significant, and why that could not be a larger issue on smaller wetland waterways? Most of the comments here are like yours “no they are not the same”, “no paddlers and hikers cause no damage”…… At least I am trying to explain my comments.

  20. Paul says:

    “The wetlands look healthy to me.” If you can say this about Bog Pond you have never been there or you closed your eyes on that section.

    Talk about obfuscation.

  21. verplanck says:

    Beans & Greens

    1 can small white beans (Goya brand or similar), rinsed
    10 cloves garlic
    1/2 head bitter greens (escarole, endive, kale, etc.)
    1/2 stick pepperoni, sliced thin
    4 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp oregano
    1 tsp red pepper flakes
    dry white wine

    Heat oil in large fry pan or dutch oven over medium heat, add garlic and cook until softened (not browned). Add chili flakes, oregano, and pepperoni and cook until pepperoni releases some of its fat and shrivels up a bit. Add beans and cook until heated through, about 5 mins. Add greens and a splash of wine and cook a couple minutes more, until the greens are starting to turn tender and loose a bit of their bitterness. Serve.

  22. dave says:

    Paul, no one, that I can see (and definitely not me) said that hikers and paddlers cause no damage.

    But you are hanging on to a similarity (all use can cause damage) and intentionally ignoring the gigantic differences in scale (some use causes a lot more damage).

    Yes, any use of land can cause environmental damage. Great point, not sure who didn’t realize that, but ok… you felt the need to bring it up, so be it.

    Even 1 lone person walking through the woods can cause some amount of damage.

    A bulldozer going down that same path causes much more damage.

    We are pointing out the more important difference between those two, you keep harping on the trivial similarity.

    It is dishonest to keep trying to talk about the two on the same level.

  23. SpendsLessTimeOnMyArseThanPaul says:

    Farting causes environmental damage, so all of you who fart can’t criticize BP or Snirts. Paul, your red herring stinks more than my fart.

  24. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:


    Yes, Moe. down’s demise was the result of the county requiring the band Moe. (the promoter) and Tom Horn, the owner of the venue, Snow Ridge, to fork up a six figure fee to cover the cost of policing the event. Snow Ridge’s share was about what they make in profit from hosting the event. They simply couldn’t afford it. And the band Moe. had other options. Of course the county didn’t ask for such a fee of the bars and restaurants who benefit from the snowmobile season or events such as SNIRT. Which of course also requiring some policing. But the county tax payers cover those costs directly.

    Moe. ended up moving their annual Labor Day event to Herkimer County which was delighted to host the three day festival and all the benefits (and yes, some headaches) that comes with it. Again, it’s the double standard that I don’t agree with.

  25. Paul says:

    “Proof that America is, at heart, wicked and doomed.” Interesting audience today. This comment received overwhelming support.

  26. Paul says:

    verplank, TEN cloves of garlic!

  27. BRIAN. says:

    As one of the organizers of the SNIRT RUN I am always saddened by the activity of some of the ATV drivers. We provide each participant a list of rules, regulations and a map which shows the legal routes to be used to get to any of the stops. We even highlight this: PLEASE STAY ON THE TRAIL, RIDE SAFE, BE COURTEOUS AND RESPECT THE LAND. We make sure every participant has a valid registration and insurance card and inform them that they must follow N.Y.S. ATV and motor vehicle laws at all times. Do they all follow these simple rules? Obviously not. Is every ATV that is operating an ATV part of the SNIRT RUN? Obviously not as our registered numbers were down and everyone has said that they saw more wheelers than any other year. On a positive note approximately 500lbs of food was donated to the Lewis County Food Pantry and the local hotels, motels, bed and breakfast’s, restaurants and bars all benefited from this event. BTW, in the past donations from this event have gone to local Fire Departments, Highway Dept, playground development and ATV club, but that isn’t news worthy is it?

  28. Solidago says:

    Brian et al, the impact of one ATV versus one paddler is obviously not equivalent (one ATV versus 100 paddlers may be a different story). But to suggest that paddlers or hikers have absolutely no impact is irresponsible and absurd, especially when there are so many.

    Here’s a quote by the DEC spokesman from an NCPR piece last summer:

    It’s often canoers and kayakers that are more likely to harass loons, particularly loons on their nest. Mainly because loons nest on the shallows by the shore and motorboats can’t get into those areas. In some cases, obviously not in these, but people may just be curious and want to approach the loon. But this is not good for the loon or its eggs on the nest,” said Winchell.

    What’s worse for the environment? A few hundred self-righteous paddlers who believe their presence and actions have absolutely no impact, or a handful of rednecks on ATVs who could care less?

    Back to ATVs, where in the legal documents prepared by the AG (or Phil Brown’s lawyer) is the environment taken into consideration? Where in the common law is environmental impact addressed? It isn’t because the common law was meant to allow for things like log drives. If there’s an exit point upstream or downstream from where this was filmed, these guys could probably use the exact same arguments being set forth by Phil Brown and the DEC to make the case that their actions were perfectly legal.

  29. brierh says:

    You know, I actually take some offense to some of this, and agree with other parts. Mostly I take offense. There was a fairly large group of us from our contingent, we didn’t leave the established trails as one of you alluded that we all drive “off-road”, and we didn’t drive all over like drunken sailors as some of you would have people believe. Not everyone at the SNIRT Run drove like an idiot, so the “Few Bad Apples” angle has now been played. I saw alot of families out enjoying the environment and the day. Sorry we’re not all perfect.

  30. Paul says:

    “But you are hanging on to a similarity (all use can cause damage) and intentionally ignoring the gigantic differences in scale (some use causes a lot more damage).”

    Dave, I am sorry to keep on this point, but this is not a stretch. Let me give you another example of a “use” and you tell me why there is a “gigantic difference”.

    It is well understood by many scientists, I can show you papers by EH Ketchledge and other, that hikers are slowly destroying (and I mean completely destroying) one of the most rare and sensitive ecosystems in the Adirondacks; high alpine vegetation. There is less than 85 acres of this type of vegetation in all of the Adirondacks. From my perspective the destruction of that 85 acres is far more egregious than all the damage done by ATV’s over the years. I prefer to see both stop but one group is just as “guilty” as the next. People like Brian Houseal just like to get on the soap box in a case like this. I assume he is planning on a lawsuit to shut down all the summits of the high peaks as well? No I don’t think that will sit to well with his donors.

  31. Brian Mann says:

    The impact of hikers and paddlers can be VERY significant. In fact, the canoe route in question here, the loop that can include the Shingle Shanty route, includes some incredibly damaged portage trails. On my last trip through the area, I was wading in mud up to my thighs. It certainly looked as badly damaged as as ATV trail to me.

    The puzzle for ATV riders, however, and for the sport in general, is that many of its most passionate enthusiasts are actively looking for those kinds of “mud” and “churn” experiences. These people aren’t crossing a creek to move on down the trail. They’re leaving the trail to grab some mud time.

    The marketing and culture of the sport definitely encourage that kind of thing, and it’s something the DEC and law enforcement, as well as more responsible riders, are clearly wrestling with.

    –Brian, NCPR

  32. Paul says:

    It is like the thousands of discarded oxygen canisters that are all over Mt. Everest, whether you are a hiker, a climber, a paddler, or a guy on his ATV sometimes people just can’t help themselves when there is fun involved. I am reading the 2009 book “The Great Adirondack Experiment; Voices from the Adirondack Park” (a pretty good read so far). In the book one theme is clear much of the legislation revolving around the DEC and the APA and others was clearly written to address the states “need” for recreational access in the Adirondacks. Where hikers or ATV’s that is probably a failed part of the experiment at this point. Assuring that private waterways are also open for recreation with the Sierra Club vs. ACL case, and now Phil Brown and the AE is just an extension of that lust for open space fun. Perhaps the common law allowed it already but this will make sure there is no question and that use can start to increase.

  33. Jim McCulley says:

    Look at the video I found on youtube and these are of endangered species being destroyed.

  34. Solidago says:

    “The impact of hikers and paddlers can be VERY significant. In fact, the canoe route in question here, the loop that can include the Shingle Shanty route, includes some incredibly damaged portage trails. On my last trip through the area, I was wading in mud up to my thighs. It certainly looked as badly damaged as as ATV trail to me.”

    Huh, perhaps the property owners would like to prevent the same thing from happening to their property, and/or prevent other degradation that would arise from the volume of use that would result in such damage? Wouldn’t anyone who cares about the land and water?

    Moving on, as you, Pete Klein and others suggest, the “ATV culture” is a real problem. Personally, I don’t think it can ever be eliminated. The thing I love about snowmobiles is that it allows these sorts of people to have their Adirondack fun while having a much, much smaller impact.

  35. Peter Hahn says:

    Jim – the point is?

  36. Paul says:

    “Huh, perhaps the property owners would like to prevent the same thing from happening to their property, and/or prevent other degradation that would arise from the volume of use that would result in such damage?”

    Solidago, it looks like the argument is that the landowner will have to build portage trails to limit erosion if necessary, and maintain and monitor their land along these waterways if he or she wants to prevent any damage. Remember like we saw with the recent TNC logging operation that caused some silting in a stream the owners will also have to pay for any violations to environmental laws that occur on their property in case the “mud” that Brian is referring to makes it into a nearby stream.

    The whole thing is absurd. The common law was written when we lived in a different world. Hopefully the court will see things clearly in this new case. There is also a common law that allows squatters to stay on land they have occupied for many years. Does that mean the camps that they want to tear down on Chazy lake can stay? Maybe in some twisted version of reality.–update-.html?nav=5008

  37. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Brian, re: jests about shooting people. It was an ironic reference to your headline — SNIRT rally Draws Fire. But I get your point, my bad.

  38. Solidago says:

    That first video of Jim’s has an unfortunate title, but is a pretty brilliant juxtaposition of anti-ATV rhetoric with images of the damage caused by hikers, which certainly would rival any caused by an ATV. The pictures of hikers milling about on alpine vegetation are something else.

    The mindset of ATV riders and hikers or paddlers may be different, but given large enough numbers, the environmental impact is the same. Isn’t the impact what environmentalists should be concerned about, not how it occurred?

    Oh yeah, many of the the most vocal “environmentalists” are first and foremost recreationists who only care about the environment if it serves their own recreational interests.

  39. dave says:

    – “Given large enough numbers” hikers and paddlers can do similar environmental damage to ATVs.

    – “In the Alpine Zone” hikers can do more damage than ATVs not in the Alpine Zone.

    When trying to compare the environmental damage between hikers and ATVs you have to multiply the numbers of hikers or put them in a completely different environment. The contortions you need to go to in order to try to present your argument says something to me about the validity of them.

    The idea that we should work to reduce environmental damage no matter the source – is a rock solid one. This, however, does not logically flow into the argument that sources of damage are equal.

  40. Peter Hahn says:

    Its also true that the hikers dont want to damage the plants etc, – whereas the ATV riders either couldnt care less or actively enjoy making a mess. The hikers can be educated to be more careful. The ATV riders on the other hand – the destruction is half the fun.

  41. myown says:

    Driving an ATV in a stream has nothing to do with the issue of stream navigability. The term navigability in relation to streams requires the act of floating on and with the water, whether it is logs, guide boats or kayaks. There is allowance for the occasional rapids, shallows, dam, etc. that can necessitate a portage across private land, but otherwise the allowed navigable must be exclusively supported by the water. Other than for a necessary portage across private land there is no right to get out of a watercraft to stand in the stream or on land. In fact, even using an anchor is prohibited on streams running through private property. ATVs in streams are not floating vessels, are in constant contact with the stream bottom and have not the slightest relationship to the concept of stream navigability. These events clearly constitute trespassing if on posted property, besides several violations of Environmental Conservation Laws.

    It is also absurd to equate the damage several ATVs can intentionally do in an afternoon with the condition of a foot trail after many years and thousands of users.

    The video above reminds me of how ATVers are always trying to justify their use of work vehicles as play toys by saying it promotes a wholesome outdoor experience for families. Right.

  42. hermit thrush says:

    i think the point about destruction of high alpine areas is a good one, and if the hiking community can’t sustainably use these areas then they shouldn’t be up there (or at least have access restricted). however, i have to confess i haven’t at all kept up with the state of alpine protection/restoration. my impression is that things had gotten bad but have been recovering since maybe the 70’s or so. i’m sure there are some very knowledgeable readers out there and anyone with good info to share would be much appreciated.

  43. EB says:

    If anyone really wants to understand the changes that occur to ecological systems as a result of recreation use:

  44. Paul says:

    EB, thanks for this link.

  45. Solidago says:

    Dave, the numbers of hikers and paddlers required to do some serious damage are easy to find. Of course the High Peaks are a prime example as shown in Jim’s first video, but even on the remote route that Shingle Shanty can be a part of, Brian described damage caused by paddlers that “certainly looked as badly damaged as as ATV trail.”

    Yet the DEC, the Sierra Club, the New York League of Conservation Voters and the paddling community don’t seem to care the slightest about the environmental impact of paddlers. They are fighting to bring the same level of use that produced the damage Brian mentioned to a two mile wetland corridor on private land, when the public has an upland portage trail less than half the length available to reach the same destination. It isn’t a question of whether the area will be degraded, but how badly.

    It seems as long as the damage is the product of the blissful ignorance or peaceful obliviousness of numerous ‘nature lovers’ who individually don’t have that much of an impact, it’s fine with the DEC and pretty much everyone else. The only damage and degradation that matters is caused by ATVs and other vehicles.

  46. Mervel says:

    I don’t honestly know the data on the comparisons between the damage done by the two (hiking paddling versus ATV).

    My personal experience in the woods hunting, fishing and hiking is that where there is heavy ATV usage and travel I find torn up trails and trash. I also see a bunch of drinking going on with big groups of ATV users and all of the problems that go along with that. I do not see that happening with paddlers and hikers. Sorry that is just what I see I know it may be a stereotype, but it is what I personally observe.

    To me that video was pretty mild.

  47. John Sheehan says:

    A moment, please, to correct a false impression that seems to be shared by several commenting parties in this discussion:

    The Adirondack Council is not a hiking or paddling group. Protecting sensitive vegetation was the number one reason that the Adirondack Council opposed the state’s retention of the defunct fire towers in the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness and St. Regis Canoe Area.

    The Council held out against hiking and paddling organizations for major changes in the mangement plan for the High Peaks Wilderness, including strict limits on the number of campsites, required use of bear-proof food containers, a ban on “at large” camping and a prohibition on campfires. The Council still wants to see a permanent permit system instituted to regulate the number of overnight campers allowed to even enter the HPW.

    The addition of Follensby Pond to the western High Peaks Wilderness could help relieve some of the pressure by drawing hikers/paddlers to that less-visited side of the most-visited wilderness. So too will the addition of the Finch, Pruyn lands south of the High Peaks.

    Meanwhile, the Council is also trying to undo the damage Mr. McCulley did when he won the right to drive his pickup truck on the Jackrabbit Trail. The Council is urging the new DEC commissioner to reconsider that decision.

    Few seem to remember that the Council sued DEC for overusing vehicles in the Forest Preserve during the Pataki administration. The Council won a settlement that requires the DEC to curtail, and justify, its use of motorized vehicles everywhere on the preserve, but especially in places where the public is not allowed to use them.

    The Council has been supportive of the summit steward program undertaken by the Nature Conservancy. The program has prevented the loss of many acres of alpine plants. It needs more money. The Council has promoted it with the media and urged state lawmakers to set aside funding for it.

    Why have ATVs been banned from the Forest Preserve, except for certain roads/trails reserved for people with disabilities? Because the Council and others submitted a mountain of evidence of the damage, vandalism and lawlessness that were all too common, all over the park. Trespass is still quite widespread.

    Make no mistake. There is no more destructive form of recreation in the Adirondack Park today than ATV thrill-riding.

    ATVs may be perfectly appropriate tools for farmers and small-scale loggers, but they do nothing but harm when driven through ponds and wetlands. How much gas and oil went into the water last weekend? Nobody is checking.

    Tug Hill is the watershed that provides drinking water to the City of Rome. Nobody asked them whether the SNIRT rally was a good idea. They will be drinking the results, nonetheless.

    If anyone reading this discussion can document current damage being done to the Forest Preserve — by boots, paddles or vehicles — the Adirondack Council wants to know about it. Write to [email protected] or go to to see how to contact a staff member by phone or by mail.

    Please don’t email links. The Council is interested in actual video footage and photographs, as well as eye witness accounts, not access to a third party’s internet postings or unsubstantiated information.

    Whoa. That took more than the moment I asked for. Sorry about that.

    Thank you,

    John Sheehan
    Communications Director
    The Adirondack Council

  48. Walker says:

    Brian Mann wrote: “On my last trip through the [Lila Traverse] area, I was wading in mud up to my thighs. It certainly looked as badly damaged as as ATV trail to me.”

    Brian, there’s plenty of thigh deep mud in the Adirondacks that exists independent of anyone going through it. Mud, per se, isn’t “damage,” though churning through mud can certainly disrupt plant growth.

    But paddlers and hikers are not out there _looking_ for mud: they avoid it as best they can.

    As for trashing DEC for hypocrisy, DEC _does_ close portage trails and campsites routinely in order to give overused areas a chance to regrow.

    Should they close some High Peaks summits for a season or three? I imagine they’re hoping that the summit steward program will make that unnecessary. But if it doesn’t work, I’d be all for it.

    From what I’ve heard, the program has been working, though the steward in Jim’s video looks both clueless and badly outnumbered. Let’s hope that’s not the rule. The stewards I’ve met have been quite knowledgeable.

  49. Walker says:

    Mervel, I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen a fair number of clueless canoe campers for whom the beer drinking appears to be the chief attraction. Canoe camping is uniquely attractive to beer-camping, since the canoe carries the load. Fortunately, these guys are a very small minority of the canoe campers I’ve encountered, most of whom leave a campsite as clean as they found it. I suspect that DEC’s limits on group size helps limit the damage quite a bit.

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