There are more than 1,300 ATVs registered in Clinton County, PA. But when the owners of those ATVs start planning their trail-riding vacations, many head to West Virginia or New Hampshire. Both states have extensive ATV trail systems connected to small towns with all kinds of rider services and family attractions.
The Central Mountains ATV Association (CMATVA) is working hard to change that scenario.
Located in Lock Haven, the CMATVA is partnering with state and local governments, tourism bureaus and other trail organizations to create a 1,200-mile ATV trail system, connecting towns in eight counties to four existing ATV trail systems on pubic lands.
It’s called the Northcentral PA ATV Initiative. Leading the effort is Henry Sorgen, CMATVA president. “The Hatfield-McCoy Trail in West Virginia is bringing in a lot of business,” said Sorgen. “We saw in their 2014 economic impact study that riders from Pennsylvania were a major contributor. We found that was also true in New Hampshire.
“Our trail proposal is located within the largest tract of public land in Pennsylvania. That’s the attraction. We have what exists in West Virginia and New Hampshire … and then some. Riders love our terrain. And we already have some of the best public ATV trail systems. The goal is to connect them together, and to the local municipalities, using primarily township roads.”
Among the state trails is the Bloody Skillet ATV Trail in the Sproul State Forest, located in Center and Clinton counties. The 38-mile system is managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), with assistance on work days by the CMATVA. Once completed, the Northcentral trail system would include Clinton, Centre, Potter, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, Cameron counties and a small portion of Lycoming County.
The Northcentral PA ATV Initiative Has Reached Nearly Half Its Goal
In less than three years, the Northcentral PA ATV Initiative has made incredible progress. A recent report to its 25-member Trail Committee says that the trail system now includes 594 miles of legal, signed trails and connecting routes, about 47 percent of its ultimate goal.
The CMATVA and Sorgen’s efforts are clearly focused on not just building trails, but connecting communities. As shown in the project’s logo design, the trail initiative is a triangle of partnerships: community, business and governments in Northcentral Pennsylvania. The accompanying descriptor is equally compelling: “Making sustainable connections and supporting local economies.” Its guiding mission is to “Identify a system that enhances support for tourism and local businesses, that competes with the multi-billion dollar ATV business in neighboring states.”
The CMATVA’s key partners on the project are the Clinton County Commissioners, the Clinton County Economic Partnership Tourism Board and Snow Shoe Rails to Trails (SSRT), which manages 39 miles of existing trails on an abandoned railroad bed and OHV-legal roads. State representatives and senators, as well as many business owners, also serve on the Trail Committee.
“We wanted to include as many stakeholders as possible,” said Rich Wykoff, Committee Chair. “We made that a priority from the outset. Our state representatives were able to make contacts with the Pennsylvania DCNR and other agencies. The businesses were able to tell us how the trail would impact them and give us suggestions that worked best for them. The chambers and the Economic Partnership Tourism Board gave us their perspective. The SSRT has done a lot of work. And the Pennsylvania OHV Association (PaOHVA) has provided support and they have a lobbyist.”
Recent winters have produced very little snow for snowmobiling, hurting some businesses to the point of almost shutting their doors. Sorgen says businesses throughout the eight-county area are excited about the ATV trail proposal. Those along trail sections already open to riders are reporting increased business brought to their stores by ATV riders. Sorgen lists them in the PowerPoint presentation. They include many businesses that offer services to riders, including campgrounds, hotels, convenience stores and restaurants.
Based on an ATV Recreational Analysis, Clinton County estimates that ATV riders currently spend, on average, $210 per visit while in Clinton County for ATV recreation. If connector trails are built between a local community and an existing trail system, survey responses suggest that the average ATV rider will increase the number of visits to Clinton County from 7 to 12 per year, and total expenditures would rise from $1,400 to $2,500 per rider.
The ATV Initiative is also part of “Pennsylvania Wilds,” a state-sponsored program designed to help revitalize rural communities through sustainable tourism development, while inspiring a stewardship ethic in residents and visitors.
CMATVA and SSRT have agreed to provide and install signage for municipalities that open their roads to ATVs. Last August, a CMATVA work crew installed 200 signs on township roads in municipalities opened to ATVs last summer. For townships that request them, signs are also available that tell riders that riding ATVs on their roads is not a right, but a privilege.
The CMATVA has obtained funding for the trail initiative through state and county grants, as well as the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative. It also has a fund raising campaign using GoFundMe.com. Over the past three years, the association’s efforts have also helped change the image of ATV riders among the non-riding public. It stresses that its organization is family-oriented, and works hard to promote safe, responsible riding.
CMATVA continues to attend meetings promoting the initiative. There are 59 townships involved in the project, which must create ordinances to allow ATVs on their roads. And there are hurdles to overcome, at the state level. “The biggest hurdle that’s ahead of us now, are the little state ‘jumper roads’ we need to connect the township roads,” said Sorgen. “We have small gaps from a 16th of a mile to a mile, on state roads with high traffic volumes, where ATVs are currently not allowed. The other hurdle we have is getting legislation passed to release private landowners of liability for recreational use. That’s crucial to getting more townships to sign on.”
To learn more about the Central Mountains ATV Association, and the Northcentral PA ATV Initiative, and routes currently open to ATVs, visit: http://cmatva.org/newsite/