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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Laws? What Laws?

When will leadership wake up in Lewis County and realize that, yes, they too must abide by the rules and laws of New York State?

As you know, I have long opposed the attempts by Lewis County to establish an ATV trail system any old way they want to by ignoring state laws. The April 9, 2011 Watertown Daily Times carried an article about the complaints of the Adirondack Council over how the ATV bar hopping event called the "Snirt Run" has been established. The Adirondack Council points out that no State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) has been done on the massive event that usually results in trespass and a number of environmental atrocities, such as riding in streams and wetlands. Also, the Council mirrors my concerns about the illegal opening of roads pointing out that the County has opened roads for the "Snirt Run" beyond the constraints of Section 2405 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. This event is about riding on roads and not connecting roads to trails, making the entire event an illegal action, at least if someone is interested in following state law.

Lewis County and a number of its towns have had a long history of illegally opening roads to ATV traffic. Despite an increasing number of Supreme Court cases that have enforced the restrictions in Section 2405 in Vehicle and Traffic Law, Lewis County has continued to flagrantly open roads to ATV use.

This has not happened in a vacuum. County Legislator Rick Lucas, owner of the Montague Inn ATV bar, has pushed the county to open roads even though he was told to recuse himself from involvement in this issue by the Lewis County Ethics Board in 2005. He recently thumbed his nose at the Ethics Board by announcing he would vote on ATV issues, essentially as he sees fit.

Now apparently, Lewis County and/or those with whom it partners in putting on the "Snirt Run", have decided that opening county roads beyond state law is old hat. During the April 9, 2011 event, a short section of New York State Rt. 26 was opened to connect two Town of Turin roads, the Houseville Gulf Road and the Houseville Road. This section of state highway was marked by four signs that said "SNIRT" (see accompanying photos), directing event participants down the state highway from one town road to another. Event organizers apparently felt this was necessary in order to give ATV riders a connection from Tug Hill to the Brantingham area. Unfortunately, according to my source, it seems they neglected to get permission from the State of New York to open this road which is necessary under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. I contacted the Lewis County Sheriff's Department to see if this road was opened with permission from the state. My contact told me that indeed, no, permission had not been received and that no paperwork was in my contact's possession to indicate that any state permission existed.

Monday morning update: Sources at the New York State DOT in Watertown say that they were never contacted by anyone for permission to open that portion of state highway.

Who dropped the ball on this? Barnes Corners Sno Pals that sponsors this mess? How about our well compensated Lewis County Trail Coordinator? Was this deliberate?

Lewis County... where laws don't matter.