"I did do due diligence." This was how Lewis County Trail Coordinator Robert Diehl was quoted in today's Watertown Daily Times in an article about the Lewis County Board of Legislator's decision to open roads that essentially connect Tug Hill to Brantingham at last night's board meeting. Unfortunately for Mr. Diehl and Lewis County's trail honchos Mr. Diehl's "due diligence" points out just how pathetic landowner support for providing trails is in Lewis County. This is as expected. ATVs, unlike snowmobiles impact the soil directly and do immense damage, and what right thinking farmer or forester that depends on the land for a living is going to allow this type of activity to take place on their property?
The real casualty in this process, however, has been clear, logical, thinking. In fact, whatever the opposite of clear, logical, thinking is, is what has been taking place relative to ATV trail development.
For example, logic would dictate that since not enough actual trails were able to be opened to ATVs, Lewis County would have to back away from its plans to open up roads. However, in Lewis County "due diligence" seems to mean that if you look for the trails and no one allows you across their property, it's okay to just go ahead and open up public highways regardless of what state law has to say. I'm sure Mr. Diehl looked high and low for trails. The mere fact that he looked for trails and could not find enough landowners to make the project successful does not give Lewis County the authority to open up public highways to ATV use and essentially turn them into an ATV trail system. This turned out not to be about opening short distances of highways to connect long stretches of trails as state law envisions, but rather turned into opening long distances of highways to connect three extremely short stretches of trail.
The other slap in the face to logic was that roads should be opened, seemingly with no regard as to the legality of the opening, because of the claim according to the Times article that even though roads are closed "ATV riders still run their road, but now they do it at higher speeds because they don't want to be caught"... Logic...anyone? First let's asume for the sake of argument that the quoted statement is true and we have no real evidence that it is. In fact, since the County roads were closed, most people report a noticable decline in the number of ATVs on the roads. But, for the sake of argument...so, we don't step up enforcement, but we do take action as a county government and open roads illegally and potentially expose every taxpayer in Lewis County to more liabilty, read that higher taxes, so that a few law breakers feel more comfortable? Logic...anyone?
And, not for nothing what about that quaint old notion that local governments should themselves obey the law and their board members should actually live up to their oaths of office to uphold the laws of New York State?
Given the difficulties Mr. Diehl has faced in performing his "due diligence" one has to further question the rather remarkable claim in brochures and other promotional material that Lewis County's trail system is "90% private landowners". Now, I mean seriously, I mean logically, are we expected to believe this?