A state judge has ruled that a village near the Adirondack Park improperly allowed all-terrain vehicles to operate on two of its streets without first justifying that a new ATV trail couldn’t othewise be connected to the Lewis County trail system.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Peter Schwerzmann, in a decision handed down Monday, concluded Constableville’s local law adopted in June 2017 first requires a documented finding that it is “otherwise impossible” to connect the new trail for off-road motorized vehicles.
The Village Board’s statement that this is the case and the street access wass the only way to connect two ATV trails is “insufficient unless substantiated by other findings,” Schwerzmann wrote. He cited prior court rulings out of Horicon and Bolton, noting the governing state statute has been interpreted narrowly.
“Quite frankly, clearing the ‘otherwise impossible’ hurdles seems like a daunting, if not impossible, task,” he wrote. “However, modifying, or eliminating, that hurdle is a matter for the Legislature.”
The judge noted “the overall positive role the Lewis County ATV trail system has played in terms of both economic development for the county and increased ATV riding options now open to the general public.”
The Adirondack Council and other environmental groups are opposed to expanding ATV use because of damage to trails and forests.
Bernadette DeSantis, who filed the lawsuit, said that allowing a municipal board to simply say it’s necessary to open certain streets to ATVs could potentially allow any highway to be opened where they abut a commercial parking lot and allow them as substitutes for on-road vehicles such as cars and bicycles.
The Legislature’s clear intent to was that ATVs be used primarily off-road and only incidentally on highways.