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ATV USE ON TRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENT (TE) FUNDED PROJECTS
 

GOVERNOR AND EXECUTIVE COUNCIL DISCUSS DRED AND NHDOT REQUEST FOR A WAIVER TO ALLOW ATVS ON RAIL TRAILS

 

VIDEO CLIP OF GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL DISCUSSION
AUGUST 22, 2007

ATV WATCH RESPONSE TO COMMISSIONER GEORGE BALD'S STATEMENTS TO THE GOVERNOR AND EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

 

Note:  Shown below, in italics under DRED Representations, are quotes from DRED Commissioner Bald at the August 22, 2007 Governor and Council meeting.

 

DRED Representation:

The current issue has been prompted as the result of a change in the definition of trails.

 

“There is some change in the definition of trails….”

 

“And there was a change in the definition of the trails. And so my understanding is that the U.S. DOT said if the change is there then unless you ask for a request you can’t use them on winter trails.”

 

“….yes there was a change in the definition of the trail…”

 

ATV Watch Response: 

There was and is no change in the definition of any trails either by the State or the federal government.  The issue has nothing to do with the definition of trails.  If Commissioner Bald can identify any change in the definition of trails we would like to review that information.  Perhaps Commissioner Bald was confused with the 2006 legislation which was passed and which specifically indicates that an ATV is not a snowmobile.

 

DRED Representation:

The trails for which the State has asked for a waiver to allow ATV use have always allowed ATV use with snow cover.

 

And so we, the law was always before, or the rule was you could use ATVs with snow cover on those trails.”

 

“On the specific trails they had always allowed ATV use with snow cover.”

 

ATV Watch Response:

Wheeled ATV use has not always been allowed on the TE funded rail trails.  Letters from DRED to law enforcement officials substantiate this.  Letters from DRED further support the fact that DRED knew federal laws prohibited ATVs and that ATVs are distinct from snowmobiles.

 

“The answer to your question regarding the use of ATV's on the Cheshire Branch is very clear-cut. Because ISTEA funds were used to purchase the line, federal guidelines dictate that ‘NO OHRV's’, other than snowmobiles in winter, are to be operated upon the corridor.”  Letter from DRED to Town of Troy August 23, 1995 (signed by Alan Smith)

 

“It has been brought to my attention that you are looking for information regarding the use of ATV's and motorcycles on the newly acquired rail corridors in your district. The federal funds that were used by DOT, Bureau of Railroads and Public Transportation to purchase the corridors specifies they cannot be used for motorized recreation with the exception of snowmobiles.  The Bureau of Trails has an agreement with DOT to operate the corridors as trails, but we are held to the above constraint.”  Letter from DRED to NH Fish and Game, March 21, 1996 (signed by Paul Gray)

 

Commissioner Bald’s  response to the Governor and Council would have been more accurate if he had said that since 1999 DRED has allowed ATVs on the rail trails in the winter, in violation of federal laws, and that this illegal practice has established a “tradition” that we are now asking to be made legal.

 

DRED Representation:

DRED is acting to develop ATV trails on public lands at the direction of the legislature and that if the public is opposed to this they should seek legislative fixes. 

 

“I’m working on the fact that the legislature has outlined policies that say DRED will do this and so that is what we do.”

 

“….we are pushing the policies that the legislature has told us to do.”

 

ATV Watch Response:

There is no legislative directive indicating that DRED should allow ATV use of federally funded trails in violation of Federal Statues.  In fact, DRED supported eliminating the statutory review criteria related to ATV trail development on rail trails and recently opposed legislation attempting to reinstate the review criteria.  The very first of these criteria indicates that ATV trails shall not be developed on lands where there are laws that prohibit the use of ATVs on the property.

 

Further, there is no legislative directive that DRED should request a waiver from the federal government to allow ATV use on the TE funded trails.

 

Because of the dedicated funding structure, whereby ATV registration fees go directly to DRED, the agency is beholden to narrow ATV interests, above broader public interests, and are highly motivated to develop ATV trails on public lands regardless of legislative directives. 

 

DRED Representation

ATV Watch is disseminating incorrect information to the public and they are doing this intentionally.

 

“There are a number of state agencies that are spending a lot of time responding to the misinformation that this organization is passing out.”

 

“I’m equally concerned, but I do not go out of my way to put incorrect information,  

so people are lead to believe things that are not accurate.”

 

“I do mind the incorrect information that he emails to everybody that he possible can and so we have state employees that are spending a lot of time responding to those things and saying to people, saying to people, no that is not accurate.   There are a number of other issues that he has done that with.”

 

ATV Watch Response

DRED has no basis to make the claim that ATV Watch has misinformed the public on any issue.  We place an extraordinarily high priority to being fact-driven and factually correct.  Yes, we could make a mistake and if in any instance we have done so we welcome input and would put forth a correction.

 

DRED Representation

If the public does not like DRED’s push to develop ATV trails on public lands then they should seek legislative changes.

 

“I told him if he does not want ATVs in this state then he should go to the legislature.  I’m not the one that put the legislation in, he ought to go in that direction.”

 

ATV Watch Response

When it comes to supporting a legislative agenda promoting expanding ATV use on public lands DRED is the strongest and most effective lobbyist in the State House.  It is a difficult task for the public to prevail on a bill when we are heard at public hearings, but DRED has the ear of the legislature, before, during and after the hearings.  We face the same situation in the legislature that we face at G&C meetings such as the most recent one.  While we are at our regular jobs DRED is out with elected officials undermining the reputation of individuals and organizations that are opposed to ATV use on public lands and promoting their agenda of expanding ATV use on public lands.

 

DRED Representation

In response to a question from Governor Lynch as to what parts of the State are impacted by the request for a waiver DRED indicated that, “it’s fairly limited, but I honestly do not know.”

 

ATV Watch Response

DRED has specifically requested a waiver to allow ATVs on more than 150 miles of trails spanning at least five counties, impacting approximately 30 communities and hundreds or perhaps thousands of landowners.

 

DRED Representation

DRED is not proposing to expand ATV use on the rail trails or change to the status quo.  They are just asking to do the same thing they have always done.

 

ATV Watch Response

First, as detailed above DRED has not always allowed ATVs on the rail trails.  Second, the base line is that what DRED previously allowed was not legal according to federal law.  ATV Watch maintains that asking for a waiver to legally allow ATV use on the rail trails is effectively an expansion of ATV use on those trails.

 

DRED Representation

“You know if ATVs were running in my backyard I know how I would feel about it…”

 

ATV Watch Response:

ATV Watch probably would agree with Commissioner Bald about one thing and that is we know how he would feel if ATVs were running on trails in his back yard.

 

   

LETTER FROM ATV WATCH TO GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL

 

Dear Councilor Pignatelli,

 

Thank you for raising the issue of ATV use on the TE funded rail trails at the August 22, 2007 meeting of the G&C.

 

I have had a chance to review the video recording of the meeting.  I do not believe representations made by Commissioner Bald last Wednesday are accurate. I would like to respond to them in detail, so that the Council, Governor Lynch, and the general public have access to the full story.

 

ATV Watch holds as part of its core mission to provide information to the public that has been diligently researched and is fact-driven. Our recent success before the NH Supreme Court validates that when DRED and ATV Watch dispute the facts concerning a policy or management decision, ATV Watch’s commitment to truthfulness and honest public disclosure are evident.

 

Before I respond directly to some of Commissioner Bald’s statements regarding the issue of allowing ATVs on TE funded trails, I think it would be helpful to provide background on the issue in order to place my responses in context.

 

Over a number of years (perhaps starting around 1994) the State acquired nearly 300 miles of abandoned rail trails.  These rail trails were purchased using Federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds.  Federal TE funded projects are primarily for development of pedestrian and bicycle facilities.  Federal law specifically stipulates that the only motorized use allowed on the TE funded trails is for “snowmobiles.” 

 

However, there is a provision that allows other motorized uses in such other circumstances as the Federal Secretary of Transportation deems appropriate.  This waiver provision was not intended as a mechanism to allow ATV use on the trails and in 15 years of funding in 50 States ATVs have not been legally allowed on any of the TE funded trails.

 

When DRED acquired the rail trails they clearly acknowledged that federal funding restrictions specifically allowed only “snowmobiles” and as a result wheeled ATVs were prohibited.  In a 1996 letter from DRED to the NH Fish and Game Department DRED indicated the following.

 

It has been brought to my attention that you are looking for information regarding the use of ATV's and motorcycles on the newly acquired rail corridors in your district. The federal funds that were used by DOT, Bureau of Railroads and Public Transportation to purchase the corridors specifies they cannot be used for motorized recreation with the exception of snowmobiles.  The Bureau of Trails has an agreement with DOT to operate the corridors as trails, but we are held to the above constraint.  Letter from DRED to NH Fish and Game, March 21, 1996 (signed by Paul Gray)

 

Perhaps at some point DRED came up with the idea that they could allow “ATVs” on the rail trails in the winter if they were called “snowmobiles.”  But everyone knows that an ATV has wheels and a snowmobile has tracks and that an ATV is not a snowmobile.  So, the direct approach of calling an ATV a snowmobile would not be credible.  Instead DRED decided to blur the lines of distinction between an ATV and a snowmobile by calling an ATV a “snow traveling vehicle” and disseminate the information that federal laws allowed a broader class of “snow traveling vehicles” not just “snowmobiles.”  Under this premise in 1999 DRED began allowing ATVs on some rail trails in the winter with snow cover.  Over the last few years the argument has evolved to include the position that ATV use on the rail trails is now “tradition” and that “ATVs have always been allowed” on the rail trails with snow cover.

 

After many complaints to ATV Watch regarding ATV use on the rail trails in the winter as well as in the summer we began to look into the issue.  We called the administrator of TE funds in Washington and asked if ATVs were allowed on the TE funded trails in the winter.  The reply was that federal laws do not allow ATVs on the TE funded rail trails, period.  We asked if an ATV was considered a “snow traveling vehicle” whether ATVs would then be allowed.  The terse response was, “what did you not understand about what I said, the law only allows snowmobiles, and not a broader category of snow traveling vehicles, and that unless your state defines an ATV as a snowmobile then they are prohibited.” 

 

Compounding DRED’s lack of credibility on the issues was legislation passed in 2006 which specifically indicates that an ATV is not a snowmobile.  In response to an inquiry by ATV Watch the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contacted DRED asking them to explain on what basis they were allowing ATVs on the rail trails in the winter.  At this point DRED could no longer ignore the issue.  Their only option was to seek a waiver to allow ATVs using the loophole of the Federal Secretary of Transportation allowing other motorized uses in such circumstances as he deemed appropriate.  DRED and NHDOT recently submitted a letter to FHWA requesting a waiver to allow ATVs on the rail trails in the winter with snow cover.

 

Thank you again first for your support of integrity in government and second for protecting our public lands.

 

Sincerely,

Andrew Walters, Director

ATV Watch

BACKGROUND

Title 23 U.S.C. 217 (h)(2) restricts motorized use on TE funded projects to  "snowmobiles", when snow conditions and state or local regulations permit.  However, Title 23 U.S.C. 217 (h)(5) also allows motorized use in "such other circumstances as the Secretary deems appropriate."
www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/sec217.htm

 

ATV groups in Vermont have submitted an application for an exemption under this provision in an effort to gain summer and winter access to a TE funded rail trail currently under development.  The Federal Highway Administration is now reviewing the application.

This the first time an exemption for ATVs has been formally requested.  In response to this Federal Highways is in the process of developing guidelines to evaluate requests for exemptions from the motorized restrictions currently on TE funded projects.  The guidelines are titled "Framework for Evaluating Motorized Use on Nonmotorized Facilities."  The guidelines are now in their final  stages of review.  A nonrestrictive set of guidelines could open up the floodgates to year-round ATV use on TE funded trails across the country.
 

 

ATV WATCH RESPONSE TO DRED'S AND NHDOT'S REQUEST FOR A WAIVER TO ALLOW ATVS ON TE FUNDED PROJECTS

Citizens Concerned With Protecting Our Public Lands in New Hampshire

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE ASKS THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION TO ALLOW ATVs ON NEW HAMPSHIRE’S RAIL TRAILS

 

Federal law restricts motorized use of most of New Hampshire’s rails trails to “snowmobiles.”  The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) have petitioned the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for a waiver to allow wheeled ATVs on the rail trails, with snow cover. They are arguing that an ATV in the winter is essentially a snowmobile.     

 

Allowing ATV use on the rail trails will be the most significant and far reaching policy shift concerning ATV use on public lands in New Hampshire.  This will be a turning point in the ability of the conservation community to protect these lands.

 

WHY SHOULD ATVS NOT BE ALLOWED ON THE RAIL TRAILS

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Because of the linear nature of rail trails ATV use on them impacts the greatest number of abutters, lands and animal habitats.  The historic nature of the trails brings them in to close proximity to residences, businesses and community centers. 

 

Many rail trails pass through or are in close proximity to sensitive environmental areas, critical habitats for rare and endangered species and conservation lands.  Opening up the rail trails to ATVs will turn them into pathways to these conservation lands and subject all of these off-trail areas to environmental damage.  This will impose a significant and costly burden on law enforcement officials, land managers and land owners.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO

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Please contact the Governor’s Office and voice your opinion.

 

Decisions made by the State of New Hampshire and the Governor's Office could have an impact nationwide.  If NHDOT and DRED successfully circumvent the Federal prohibition to ATV use on federally funded Transportation Enhancement (TE) projects this could set a precedent that would result in ATV trail development on TE funded trails across the country.  It would be unfortunate for New Hampshire and ironic that Governor Lynch, who has strongly supported land conservation efforts, would plant the seed for opening up ATV use on thousands of miles of rail trails across the country which would provide a conduit to hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation lands.

 

The Governor makes decisions based on the best information he has available.  If this information is coming primarily from DRED we know it reflects the special interests of ATV manufacturers, dealers and riders and is unbalanced in favor of maintaining the flow of ATV registration fees to DRED.  Based on ATV Watch’s contact with the State it is evident that DRED and NHDOT would not be petitioning FHWA for a waiver if Governor Lynch did not support it.  One State official explained their position indicating, “we [DRED and NHDOT] both report to the same Governor.” 

 

ATV Watch tries to present information with the intent that you can use it in voicing your opinion.  Your voice is the most important thing.  We have no paid lobbyist!  You are the citizen lobbyists and if you do not go beyond the point of intending to voice your opinion, the Governor may think you do not have an opinion.

 

WHO TO CONTACT

---------------------------

Governor John Lynch
Office of the Governor
State House
25 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-2121
http://www.egov.nh.gov/governor/goveforms/comments.asp

 

TE / Federal Highway Administration - Washington

Mr. Christopher Douwes
Federal Highway Administration
Washington, D.C
(202) 366-5013 
Christopher.Douwes@FHWA.dot.gov

 

New Hampshire Department of Transportation

Mr. Charles O’Leary, Commissioner

(603) 271-3734
COLeary@dot.state.nh.us

 

Andrew Walters

Andrew@ATVWatch.com

(603) 785-7722

 

More Information

www.ATVWatch.com

http://www.atvwatch.com/ATV%20New%20Hampshire%20TE%20Funded%20Projects%20Links.htm

 

 

READ ON….

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ATV Watch realizes that many people do not need to read beyond this point.  However, for those that feel they need more information we have presented background and further considerations below.

 

FEDERAL LAWS PROHIBIT ATV USE ON NEW HAMPSHIRE’S RAIL TRAILS PURCHASED WITH FEDERAL FUNDS

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Most of New Hampshire’s 300 miles of rail trails were purchased using Federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) grants.  Federal laws restrict motorized use on the TE funded trails to “snowmobiles” only.  However, there are two loopholes.  First, there is no Federal definition of a “snowmobile”.  Second, there is a provision in the Federal Statute which allows other motorized use “in such circumstances as the [U.S.] Secretary [of Transportation] deems appropriate.”  These are truly loopholes and have never been interpreted as a mechanism to allow ATVs on the trails.  The State’s petition to FHWA is seeking to allow ATVs use on the rail trails using these loopholes.

 

Link to Federal Laws

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/23%20U.S.C._217(h).pdf

 

WHAT ARE DRED AND NHDOT TELLING FHWA AND WHAT ARE THEY NOT TELLING FHWA

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DRED and NHDOT have made the following arguments in defending their position that they have historically not been violating Federal Laws by allowing ATV use on the trails and that a waiver should be granted to allow that use to continue?

 

- Wheeled ATVs in the winter are essentially “snowmobiles.”

 

- Since ATVs are “snowmobiles” the State has not been violating federal laws by allowing them on the trails with snow cover.

 

- The State has allowed ATVs on the trails since the State acquired them and a precedent of ATV use on the trails has now been established.

 

- Winter ATV use does not cause environmental impacts beyond those caused by snowmobiles.

 

- The rail trails are being successfully managed for ATV use and this use should be allowed to continue.

 

Link to Letter from NHDOT and DRED to FHWA

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Current%20Correspondence/2007_07_30_Letter_from_NHDOT_to_FHWA.pdf

 

THE REAL FACTS

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AN ATV IS NOT A “SNOWMOBILE”

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ATVs are inherently different than snowmobiles.  ATVs have wheels.  Snowmobiles have tracks.  ATVs operate differently, have the ability to gain access to different areas, and impact the environment differently.

 

In 2006 state legislation was passed which specifically indicates that an ATV is not a snowmobile.  Now DRED and NHDOT know that an ATV is not a snowmobile and admit that without a waiver ATV use on the rail trails is a violation of Federal laws. 

 

DRED HAS NOT ALWAYS ALLOWED ATVS ON THE RAIL TRAILS.  DRED KNEW FEDERAL LAWS PROHIBITED THEM.

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In a letter from DRED to the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department DRED wrote the following:

 

“It has been brought to my attention that you are looking for information regarding the use of ATV's and motorcycles on the newly acquired rail corridors in your district.  The federal funds that were used by DOT, Bureau of Railroads and Public Transportation to purchase the corridors specifies they cannot be used for motorized recreation with the exception of snowmobiles.”

 

“The Bureau of Trails has an agreement with DOT to operate the corridors as trails, but we are held to the above constraint.”

 

DRED even instructed NH Fish & Game that OHRVs were not allowed on the rail trails and that “anyone riding on them is operating illegally and should be prosecuted.”  (Letter from DRED to NH F&G, March 21, 1996)

 

Link to Letter

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1996_03_21_Letter_from_DRED_to_NHF&G.pdf

 

THE RAIL TRAILS ARE NOT BEING SUCCESSFULLY MANAGED AS MULTI-USE TRAILS

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Public comments received as part of a recent study by NHDOT indicate that more than 80% of the public is opposed to any ATV use on the rail trails.

 

Link to Summary of Public Comments http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/DOT_Rail_Trail_Study_Fall_2004%20Selected%20Pages.pdf

 

In response to DRED’s refusal to address numerous complaints related to ATV use on a section of the Rockingham rail trail the legislature passed a law prohibiting ATVs on that section of the rail trail when not snow covered. 

 

Link to RSA 215-A:44

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XVIII/215-A/215-A-44.htm

 

In 2006 the Rails to Trails Conservancy published an article on New Hampshire’s mixed use Sugar River Trail.

 

Public response to this article condemned Rails to Trail Conservancy for perpetuating the myth that ATV use is compatible with other uses of the rails trails.  “I do not believe these vehicles are appropriate on multi-use trails. Because of the speed at which they travel, the dust they create, the erosion they cause and the noise of their motors, I do not believe they are compatible…”

 

In a recently published an article by the Rails to Trail Conservancy on rail trails in New Hampshire a reader made the following comment.

 

“My only criticism of the article is the papering over of the New Hampshire Trails Department’s policy of allowing motorized vehicles on this and most other rail-trails in the state.  The term ‘mixed-use’ sounds vaguely positive, but in practice it means that people on all-terrain-vehicles, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles- often teenagers moving at high speeds- can destroy whatever peace, tranquility and safety hikers, skiers, horseback riders or bicyclists experience on the trail.  ‘Live Free or Die’ takes on a whole new meaning for non-motorized users of the state’s mixed use trails.”

 

 

WINTER ATV USE CAUSES ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS BEYOND THOSE CAUSED BY SNOWMOBILES

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Snowmobile use in conditions that would damage the environment is somewhat “self-regulating”.  Even with snow cover snowmobiles do not use the trails when the ground is soft or when there is not adequate snow cover because it would turn up mud and damage the snowmobiles.  Wheeled ATVs are ideally suited to be used during mild winters or transitional seasons (late fall and early spring), times when environmental damage is most likely to occur.  They are designed for these conditions and for terrain where there may be an inconsistent or light snow cover on unfrozen, unstable and muddy ground.

 

When snowmobiles use a trail the trail must be completely covered by snow.  Because snow cover on a trail is not consistent (shaded areas will have cover and sunny areas will not) any significant uncovered areas prevent any snowmobile use on that trail.  Wheeled ATVs can use the trail without consistent snow cover which will result in significant environmental damage.

 

Snowmobiles are not made to go off the trails. Wheeled ATVs can and will leave the trails. 

 

PREVENTING ATV USE IN THE WINTER WILL MAKE IT EASIER FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT TO KEEP THEM OFF THE TRAILS IN THE SUMMER

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“It has been my experience that once an area is utilized as a trail for snow machine activity, it is extremely difficult to keep these same riders off and out of the same trail system that they used in the winter during the summer.”  (Letter from NH F&G to DRED, June 24, 1997)

 

Link to Letter

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1997_06_24_Letter_from_NHF&G_to_DRED.pdf

 

Link to Keene Sentinel Article

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1999_04_01%20Keene_Sentinel_Article.pdf

 

 

KNOWINGLY ALLOWING ILLEGAL ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS SHOULD NOT BE A PRECEDENT TO JUSTIFY THAT THE USE SHOULD NOW BE LEGAL

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For years DRED knowingly violated Federal Statutes by allowing wheeled ATV use on the TE funded rail trails.  It was not until the public caught up with them that they have acknowledged that they are not allowed.  It undermines the Attorney General’s credibility to support DRED’s argument that this illegal use established a precedent in support of FHWA granting a waiver to now legally allow ATVs on the trail.

 

In a letter from DRED to the Town of Troy Police Department DRED wrote the following:

 

“The answer to your question regarding the use of ATV's on the Cheshire Branch [rail trail] is very clear-cut. Because ISTEA funds [TE funds] were used to purchase the line, federal guidelines dictate that ‘NO OHRV's’ [off-highway recreational vehicles], other than snowmobiles in winter, are to be operated upon the corridor.”  (Letter from DRED to Troy Police Department Aug 23, 1995)

 

Link to Letter

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1995_08_23_Letter_from_DRED_to_Town_of_Troy.pdf

 

ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS IS DANGEROUS

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Unlike a snowmobile with tracks, an ATV traveling on a groomed trail becomes highly unstable if any wheel travels off the edge of the hard packed groomed surface.

 

ATVs leave ruts which pose a danger to snowmobiles.

 

Link to Keene Sentinel Article

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1998_12_07_Keene_Sentinel_Article.pdf

 

 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

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ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS IS A VIOLATION OF THE LETTER AND INTENT OF TE FUNDED PROJECTS

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TE funds are intended to provide "opportunities to enhance transportation related quality of life activities, as well as to improve air quality and mitigate congestion." (State of New Hampshire Manual for Development of Projects)

 

This is further supported by a letter from DRED to the City of Keene.

 

 “The guidance received from the Federal Highway Administration's Washington Office is that the railroad corridor protection provision (according to the legislative history) was intended to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle facilities.  Therefore, if TE funds were used to purchase the corridor (which they were in this case), then ATV's must be excluded.” (Letter from DRED to City of Keene 09-11-03)

 

IT IS UNFAIR AND UNWISE TO CHANGE THE RULES UNDER WHICH ABUTTERS AND COMMUNITIES ORIGINALLY ACCEPTED RAIL TRAILS

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Some individuals, abutters and communities supported rail trail development with the understanding that ATVs were prohibited from the trails by Federal laws.  Now, having developed the trails, it is not fair to those that supported the trails to change the rules under which the trails were accepted by them.

 

Mobilizing community support for rail trail preservation and development, and the economic benefits that come from it, is a significant challenge for many communities.  Allowing wheeled ATV use, even if it is only in the winter, will undermine abutter and community support for rail trail preservation and development because communities and abutters know what the consequences will be.

 

Link to City of Keene Resolution Regarding ATV Use on the Rail Trails.

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Background%20Info/1999_06_03_City_of_Keene_Resolution.pdf

 

IN THE FUTURE WILL DRED ASK FOR A WAIVER TO FURTHER BROADEN ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS

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Will DRED follow up their current petition to FHWA with a request for a waiver to allow ATV summer use of bridge crossings and short sections of the trail to connect existing ATV trail systems?  Will DRED then ask for a waiver to allow year round ATV use on the trails?

 

PUBLIC POLICY SHOULD NOT BE DEVELOPED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

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DRED, NHDOT and the Attorney General’s Office are in violation of New Hampshire’s Right to Know law for refusing to timely release emails and other records related to the issue.  The Governor's Office should insist on "openness in government" and compel DRED and NHDOT to develop policy based on public input and broader public benefit and not based on narrow special interests.

 

ATV Watch First Right to Know Request

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Current%20Correspondence/2007_07_24_Letter_from_ATV_Watch_to_DRED.pdf

 

ATV Watch Second Right to Know Request 

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Current%20Correspondence/200_07_24_Letter_from_ATV_Watch_to_DRED.pdf

 

ATV Watch Third Right to Know Request

http://www.atvwatch.com/Rail%20Trail%20TE%20Documents/Current%20Correspondence/2007_08_06_Letter_from_ATV_Watch_to_NHDOT.pdf

 

WHY IS DRED PUSHING TO ALLOW ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS

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Given that only 2% of the citizens of New Hampshire own a registered ATV and that ATV registrations have grown by only 1.5% for each of the last four years and why is ATV use on the rail trails even being proposed by DRED?  Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the salaries of employees of State agencies which regulate ATV use on public lands are derived, in part, from ATV registration fees which are dedicated by law directly to those State agencies.

 

DRED LOBBIED TO ELIMINATE LOCAL CONTROL OF ATV USE ON THE RAIL TRAILS

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In 2003 DRED supported House Bill 748 which eliminated local control of ATV use on the rail trails.  This bill eliminated the statutory requirement that ATV trail development on rail trails be compatible with local zoning, planning, noise and obnoxious use ordinances.  This bill also eliminated public safety review criteria and criteria intended to protect the environment and critical habitats of rare and endangered species.  In 2006 DRED successfully opposed House Bill 1401 which attempted to reinstate the ATV use on rail trail review criteria into statute.

 

DID YOU KNOW

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The EPA estimates that a four stroke ATV operating for one hour emits hydrocarbons equal to driving a current passenger car 290 miles.  A two stroke ATV operating for one hour emits hydrocarbons equal to driving a passenger car 6,470 miles.  Why are our State agencies spending millions of dollars on energy conservation and limiting emissions which contribute to climate change and at the same time spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money promoting ATV use on public lands which effectively negates the conservation efforts? 

 

 

   

BACKGROUND DOCUMENTS

 

Federal Statutes Restricting Motorized Use on TE Funded Projects

 

Title 23 U.S.C. 217 pdf

Title 23 U.S.C. 217

 

1995 08 23 Letter from DRED to Town of Troy

1996 03 21 Letter from DRED to NH F&G

1996 11 03 Letter from DRED to Town of Swanzey

1997 03 23 Letter from NH F&G to Citizen

1997 06 24 Letter from NH F&G to DRED

1998 12 07 Keene Sentinel Article

1998 12 09 Letter from Town of Fitzwilliam to DRED

1999 04 01 Keene Sentinel Article

1999 06 03 City of Keen Resolution Regarding ATV Use on TE Funded Rail Trails

 

 

Governor's Lynch's Response to Questions Regarding ATV Use on Public Lands

(2004 Governor's Race)

 

New Hampshire Department of Transportation

Rail Trail Study (Selected Pages)

Rail Trail Study (Full Report- 5 Meg download )

 

New Hampshire State Trails Plan (2 Meg download)

  

 

 

CORRESPONDENCE

 

PRELIMINARY CORRESPONDENCE

 

2007 01 16 Letter from ATV Watch to FHWA

2007 02 13 Letter from FHWA to NHDOT

2007 02 23 Letter from ATV Watch to NHDOT

2007 03 07 Letter from NHDOT to ATV Watch

2007 04 17 Letter from ATV Watch to NHDOT

 

RECENT CORRESPONDENCE

 

2007 07 24 Letter from ATV Watch to NHDOT (Right to Know Request)

2007 07 24 Letter from ATV Watch to DRED (Right to Know request)

2007 07 24 Letter from ATV Watch to AG (Right to Know Request)

 

2007 07 27 Letter from AG to ATV Watch (Reply to Right to Know Request)

2007 07 27 Letter from DRED to ATV Watch (Reply to Right to Know Request)

2007 07 30 Letter from NHDOT to ATV Watch (Reply to Right to Know Request)

 

2007 07 30 Letter from NHDOT to FHWA

 

2007 07 31 Letter from ATV Watch to NHDOT (Right to Know Request)

 

2007 08 06 Letter from ATV Watch to NHDOT

 

 

CONTACT INFORMATION


ATV Watch encourage you to contact your state and federal officials to express your support for maintaining the intent and integrity of the TE program and not allow any exemptions for recreational all terrain vehicle use on TE funded projects.
 

Contact Information:
 

ATV Watch

Andrew Walters

(603) 785-7722

Andrew@ATVWatch.com


TE / Federal Highway Administration - Washington

Mr. Christopher Douwes
Federal Highway Administration
Washington, D.C
(202) 366-5013 
Christopher.Douwes@FHWA.dot.gov

 

Other Federal Highway Contacts - Washington
http://enhancements.org/contacts_search.asp?type=FHWA-HQ

TE / Federal Highways Administration - Concord
Ms. Kathy Laffey

Division Administrator

Federal Highway Administration

Concord, New Hampshire 

(603) 228-3054

 

Other Federal Highway Contacts - Concord
http://enhancements.org/contacts_search.asp?type=FHWA

TE Contacts - State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation
Mr. Charles O'Leary, Commissioner

COLeary@dot.state.nh.us

(603) 271-3734

 

Mr. Ram Maddali

RMaddali@dot.state.nh.us

 

Other State of New Hampshire TE Contacts

http://enhancements.org/contacts_search.asp?type=TE

 

ARTICLE ON ATV USE ON RAIL TRAILS


ATVS BANNED FROM PENNSY RAILS-TRAILS

Date: 10 Dec 2002
From: {FORESTcoalition@aol.com}

http://www.gsenet.org/library/11gsn/2002/gs021211.php#ATVS%20BANNED%20FROM%20PENNSY%20RAILS-TRAILS

SIX-YEAR EXPERIMENT ENDS; ATVS BANNED FROM RAILS-TRAILS

DUST, NOISE, TRESPASS AND SAFETY PROBLEMS DOOM
SHARING WITH BIKERS, WALKERS AND EQUESTRIANS

The Susquehanna County Rail-Trail Council included Snowmobile use in their master plan, with an excellent partnership with Northeast PA Sno-Trails snowmobile club. Many local ATV owners, however, were angered that they were not included. In response, RTC decided on an experiment to see if ATV use could be compatible with the walkers, equestrians and bicyclists on their popular D&H and O&H rails-trails.

An ATV group agreed to regulate & patrol ATV use on the trail. 500 passes per year were issued by the ATV club for $ 20 each. Despite an honest six-year effort, the dust, noise, trespass and safety issues could not be resolved; hiker and bicyclist users did not feel safe sharing a pathway with ATVs. Lynn Conrad, RTC project manager, said "Our trails became overrun with ATVs, many of whom did not get the mandatory trail pass which also came with rules and regulations. We began to lose our long-supportive members and many were afraid to ride bikes out on the trail."

The Rail-Trail Council voted 30 - 3 to ban ATVs on the Rails-Trails. A letter (printed below) was sent to ATV clubs informing them of the reasons for the ban; the new regulations will take effect on December 15, 2002. Ms. Conrad commented " I think the 'experiment' illustrates the need for ATV specific trails AND the need for stricter regulations. A small non-profit, volunteer-based organization could not safely handle the situation."

Trail Conservation Corporation was formed 10 years ago to assist the Rail-Trail Council with railbed acquisitions. They succeeded in developing the D&H and O&H railroad beds into popular Rails-Trails.

Visit their website at http://www.nepa-rail-trails.org

- - -

Dear ATV enthusiast:

We regret to inform you that the D&H and O&W Rail-Trails will be closed to any further ATV use. For those who have a current 2002 Endless Mountains ATV Club sticker, you may continue to use the trail with CAUTION until December 15th, 2002. For those who do not have trail passes, please do not use the trails. You can be charged with trespassing. This decision only came, after many years of attempting ATV use shared with other users, as hikers and bikers. It also took a board vote after many meetings of heated discussion, a review of letters indicating both positions, and a review of the log book kept of complaints and incidents involving ATVs.

Our reasons for the permanent ban follow:

1. The Rail-Trail Council's founding vision was for a recreational greenway intended for hikers & bikers. With recent ATV use, our many long-time members and financial supporters were beginning to discontinue their memberships and their support.

2. Bikers and hikers were becoming a rarity out on the trails, because they were either afraid to ride bikes with their families due to speeding ATVs or they did not want to eat the dust created.

3. Adjacent property owners were complaining on a regular basis: dust, noise and trespassing. Over 95% of adjacent property owners do not want ATVs on the trail.

4. Complaints from two local realtors have indicated that property values along the trail were decreasing. Property sales were lost in a few instances due to ATVs trespassing on to adjacent property.

5. Township and borough officials were complaining on a regular basis. Again speed, dust, noise and trespass being the major complaints. Another major concern was riding of ATVs along the streets to get to and from the trail.

6. Safety for all users is our major concern. The inherent nature of the trail being long with few turns, encourages speeding. The speed differential between a walker and an ATV rider is too great. ATV trails designed by professionals are built to keep the speed down, and discourage speeds over 15 mph. Our rail-trail is not designed for safe ATV use.

7. A major construction project of drainage improvements and resurfacing is to begin in the Spring of 2003. This project uses TEA-21 funds (federal highway enhancement funds-FHWA). These funds are not to be used for ATV trails. According to 23 U.S.C. 217(h), motorized vehicles (including ATVs) may not be permitted on trails and pedestrian walkways which use Federal aid highway funds (except snowmobiles, and where specifically authorized by State or local ordinance, motorized wheelchairs, electric bicycles, and maintenance vehicles).

8. It is not just a few bad apples; ATV use just does not mix well with bikers and hikers, who are our primary intended user group. We cannot have both, and our seven years of attempted shared use have proved this. It is also proven in the fact that no other rail-trails in PA allow ATVs (only one is still attempting shared use).

We do not blame either ATV club (Northeast ATV or Endless Mt) who have attempted to regulate ATVs on the rail-trail. The many issues listed above make it difficult to get ATV use under control and it will take an exclusive use, well-designed trail for this to happen.  Please continue to support your local ATV club, as there are many opportunities for state grants to purchase property and build trails. We appreciate the hard work of the ATV club members in our trail cleanups, trail maintenance and bridge decking projects. We are sorry to lose your support and hard work ethic. We also understand that club members were not the ones abusing the trail system, making this a difficult decision. Your best efforts combined with our best efforts have not brought ATV use under control. We do ask that you understand and accept our position.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors of the Rail-Trail Council of NE PA.

 

 

 
 

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