House bill would give local authority to expand trails

Local governments can already declare any local road a snowmobile or ATV trail.

Area officials could have some additional discretion, however, under legislation being drafted by state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Connellsville. Under current state law, riders must stay on roads and trails marked open for snowmobiles. Some trails used for snowmobiling may be open to vehicular traffic. Roads for joint use by snowmobiles and vehicular traffic are marked with caution signs at all road junctions.

“Currently, the Vehicle Code allows municipalities to designate only local roads as ATV/snowmobile roads,” Warner wrote. “With respect to state roads, PennDOT has the exclusive authority to make an ATV/snowmobile road designation. This is problematic as many roads in rural areas of the Commonwealth are state roads, which limits the ability of our local elected officials to create needed recreational routes for off road vehicles that traverse state and local roads.”

Pennsylvania has 908 miles for ATV riding enthusiasts to enjoy, including about 100 miles in the Allegheny National Forest. Many designated ATV trails can be found within state forests. The state Division of Conservation and Natural Resources revised its internal policy earlier this year on ATV trails on state forest lands to respond to increasing demands for riding opportunities, local and county government interest in expanding recreational tourism, and legislative action. Where there was a moratorium on new trail development in the previous policy, the revisions now authorize DCNR to explore new ATV trails and connectors on state forest lands.

Warner recently issued a co-sponsorship memorandum for legislation that would give municipal officials the ability to designate any road within its boundaries, including state roads, as an ATV or snowmobile road. Designating a state road requires state approval on an issue Warner said should be left up to local governments.

“I believe our municipal officials are better suited to determine the needs of our local communities regarding ATV and snowmobile use, which is why my legislation would simply allow municipalities to designate any road within their physical boundaries as an ATV or snowmobile road, including state roads, provided that the road is not a limited access highway or a freeway,” Warner wrote.


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