We chose our home for the natural environment where we rehabilitate wildlife

To the Editor:
We are writing to express concern about the town of Berne’s proposed law that would allow ATVs on town roads and to voice our opposition. We support putting this to a vote so our community as a whole can have a voice.

Our reasons for opposition are safety, enforcement, and anticipated negative impacts on our quality of life. Our home is surrounded by state land and every road that accesses our location is on the list of designated roads for recreational ATV use.

We have been Berne residents for 27 years. We chose our home for the surrounding natural environment where we rehabilitate wildlife. The peace, quiet, and low traffic qualities were especially appealing for this purpose.

The only service we really get for our tax dollars is road maintenance. Many of these are dirt roads and we rely on these roads being accessible to vehicles in the event we need emergency services.

This is where we live, not just where we recreate. Current recreational use on state land has minimal impacts and therefore does not affect our living here.

Some of the problematic aspects of this law are: safety on roads shared by people who live and travel for work in these areas; enforcement of licensing, insurance, speed limits, and staying on designated roads and off private property and state lands.

State wildlife management and forest areas are protected not only for the benefit of humans and includes the flora and fauna that inhabit these areas. Winter, when snowmobiles are on designated trails, is a time of year when motorized vehicles are not as disruptive as ATVs will be during spring and summer breeding and nesting seasons.

The temptation for ATV riders to go “off road” when in the middle of state land will be great. The temptation to go over 20 miles per hour while riding on roads in state land will be a reality. This is not comparable to the two private properties managed by the Hilltown Riders where members can ride on trails designated for ATV use.

We have questions for the Berne Town Board:

— How much weight is given to the opinions of those who live on these roads compared to those who simply want to drive ATVs on the roads?

— How will the law be enforced, and by what agency? It is one thing for a private group to enforce rules on their property, but, will the Hilltown Riders act as law enforcement in the event of violations?

— Is there support from state, county, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation enforcement agencies? What is the plan for safety and enforcement of requirements for licenses, insurance, speed limits, trespassing, destruction of not just private property, but also state forest and wildlife management land, and adjacent Huyck Preserve land?

— How will Berne designate usable roads and prohibited roads? Identify parking areas? Are there parking areas? How will a rider know which part of a road is in Berne but beyond is in another township?

— What is the quantifiable economic benefit to Berne? Do the benefits outweigh the risks or costs? What input was sought besides a private membership group?

— Where does liability responsibility fall? Hilltown Riders? The town? What is the liability if ATV operators have accidents or damage occurs as a result of these vehicles on the roads, or if they go off road?

Kelly and Patrick Martin


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