Those looking to use the motorized trails on the Allegheny National Forest can take a hike.
The ATV and snowmobile trails closed April 1 and will remain that way until May 24 - the Friday before Memorial Day. "Trails are closed to motorized use," ANF Public Affairs Specialist Kathy Mohney said on Tuesday. "Other uses are allowed."
As the ground begins to thaw, motorized use of the trails can lead to damage.
The annual closure allows a break in the action during which the earth firms up, according to Mohney.
Also, the early spring is a sensitive time for nesting animals and the trails themselves.
The more than 350 miles of snowmobile trails will remain closed until Dec. 20. They could reopen on that date, but that decision will depend on weather and ground conditions, Mohney said. Interested snowmobile enthusiasts are encouraged to call the ANF at 723-5150 or visit the ANF website at www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny.
After the ATV trails re-open in May, they close again later in the year - from the end of September through early December - for hunting seasons, before opening again for winter.
Those trails vary by difficulty, one- and two-way traffic, and equipment. Some trails are geared specifically to dirt bikes, Mohney said.
With the snowmobile trails, the April 1 closure is usually not problematic for those who wish to use it as there is unlikely to be a dense layer of snow remaining and surfaces are typically not frozen. ANF personnel do not want heavy equipment on newly thawed surfaces.
Trail improvements take place after the ground hardens. Summer maintenance begins around Memorial Day and lasts into the middle of June.
Motorized trails are built to a higher standard than equestrian trails, which are built stronger than mountain bike trails, and so on, Mohney said.
Those looking to use ATV trails on the forest have to buy permits - $10 for a daily permit or $35 for an annual permit. "A large portion of the fees collected for ATV permits are returned to the forest for trail maintenance and improvements," Mohney said.