PA Pilot Program Expands ATV Trail Connector Access

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
for The Post

HARRISBURG PA – The dreams of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) owners in western Montgomery, eastern Berks, and northern Chester counties are about to be fulfilled by Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. On Friday (July 16, 2021), it’s scheduled to open about 70 miles of new roads to ATV enthusiasts, in response to growing demand in the state for riding opportunities.

For those who live in the TriCounty area, though, there’s a hitch. You’ll need to travel, and trailer your prized rides, almost four hours to reach the closest point to the new ATV trails. From Sanatoga PA, that looks to be at Cross Fork PA on Route 144 in Potter County, or Colton Point State Park, just southwest of Wellsboro PA in Tioga County. Find a map of the trail system, here.

The map shows both preferred and secondary trail routes. “Riders are encouraged to travel the preferred route, but are free to ride any trail or road in the area that is designated open to this use,” the state noted. Advance registration is required and, yes, there is an accompanying fee ($20 for state residents, $30 for out-of-staters) for each vehicle. Find the application here.

Riders must follow and obey state-specific rules for using the routes, detailed on the application’s second page. Because this is a test, riders might also expect an increased law enforcement presence on the trail system.

The department’s Friday launch represents the start of what is a two-year pilot program to open and connect – for a limited time – existing state forest roads, snowmobile trails, and PennDOT roads previously not designated for ATV use. The goal is to make longer rides more accessible. The trail system during 2021 will be open only until Sept. 26 (Sunday), and then won’t reopen until May 2022.

Many ATV owners in this area and elsewhere in the past may have had to travel many more hours “to use them legally. That was a big reason behind this, because there’s just a high level of interest in folks wanting to ride ATVs in the state,” department Press Secretary Wesley Robinson explained.

In this, its first year, what’s officially known as the “ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot” program will link existing Potter and Tioga trails. In 2022, it intends to add even more riding excitement by also connecting to the Tiadaghton State Forest and the Haneyville ATV Trail System in Lycoming and Clinton counties.

The department acknowledges environmental and noise concerns accompany ATV use, Robinson pointed out. During the pilot, he said, the state intends to conduct environmental monitoring to gauge its impact.

Sarah Corcoran, conservation program manager for the Sierra Club Pennsylvania chapter, said she hopes the agency also examines the effects of potentially illegal riding. “It’s going to be tough for folks to not be on those trails after the pilot’s over,” she cautioned. “I want to know what their enforcement practices are going to be (to ensure) folks are only riding where they’re allowed.”

A public comment period should open lines of communication to ensure concerns are addressed, Corcoran added.

Improving ATV access can help support the local economy, Henry Sorgen, president of the 1,500-member Central Mountains ATV Association in Clinton County, believes. “That’s what the pilot program is to prove to PennDOT, to DCNR, to Harrisburg,” Sorgen argued. “That we can do this, and bring in tourism and boost the sales of gas and food, and hotel and campground stays, in our region.”

Photo, supplied by Public News Service, authorized for use by The Post