Lowville, NY - Lewis County, NY, legislators on Wednesday,
March 13, moved forward with a fee change to the county's all-terrain vehicle
permit system despite opposition from ATV club members.
Lawmakers voted 9-1 to change the ATV permit fee to $65 and
eliminate any club member discounts, with the intent of paying clubs only for
trail work they complete. Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, was opposed.
Mr. Stanford-as well as several club members in attendance-expressed
concern that the switch would discourage riders from joining clubs.
"Myself and many of our club members are against this," said
Clifford White from the Highmarket Wheelers ATV Club. "You're killing the
clubs. That's what it boils down to."
Initial permits have cost $40 for an ATV owned by a member
of a club in the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association and $80 for a machine
owned by a nonmember, although nearly all riders have become club members to
qualify for the discount.
Under the new plan, which will take effect once the law is
filed with the state, all riders would be charged $65 for their initial
permits, with a multipermit rate of $20 per additional machine remaining in
The permit fee increase would provide more funding that the
county could distribute to clubs to offset trail development costs in their
areas, according to legislators.
"The (Economic Development) Committee wants to work with the
clubs that are doing work on the off-road trails," said committee member Philip
C. Hathway, R-Harrisville.
The county contracts with the Lewis County Chamber of
Commerce to sell ATV permits, with the chamber receiving a 10 percent
During the first years of the program, riders who bought
permits could simultaneously join the club of their choice for a $25 membership
fee. The proceeds then were distributed to the clubs, with $24,050 collected in
However, the program was altered for the 2012 season so the
chamber would offer memberships only for the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV
Association, not specific clubs, and the association - which had consisted of
representatives of three Lewis County clubs and four others based outside the
county - collected $18,975 from it.
Chamber officials have said that the switch was made
primarily because of how difficult and time-consuming it was to verify riders
were members of individual clubs and that things went much more smoothly last
However, the move was criticized by many legislators, who
said it was improper because the board never approved it, and perceived by many
club members as an attempt to effectively get rid of them in favor of the
When questioned about the reason for the permit fee hike,
Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, chairman of the legislative
Economic Development Committee, said $65 was the same amount riders have paid
in past years for a permit and club membership.
"If you think this isn't going to hurt the clubs, you're
wrong," said Francis Roy, president of the Brantingham-based Black River Valley
4 Wheelers Club.
After already paying $65 for a permit, riders may not want
to pay any more for a club, and clubs with few members are not going to be able
to do trail work, he said.
Mr. Roy also warned that club members may decide not to buy
permits once the change is made. Because the county's trail system is so heavily
dependent on municipal roads and because the county is banned from charging for
the use of public highways, riders without permits cannot be banned from the
majority of the trail system.