ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The state Adirondack Park Agency on Friday banned the use of all-terrain vehicles on trails in sensitive wild forest areas in the western park.

The action bans ATVs on 26 roads covering 44 miles in the Aldrich Pond Wild Forest Area; 31 roads covering 44 miles in the Black River Wild Forest; and 68 roads covering 66 miles in the Independence River Wild Forest Area.

The 154-mile area stretches south of Potsdam along the western boundary of the Adirondack Park to an area north of Herkimer County and taking in parts of St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties.

ATVs will still be allowed in the area for disabled riders, owners on their own property, and some hunters with state permits. Friday’s action leaves no public area for ATVs in the 6 million acre park, which is made up of public and private land.

“We’re thrilled,” The Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan said of the ban first proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “We think the DEC took exactly the right action and this is one area of the park that really needs a break from vehicle traffic. The damage is pretty outrageous.”

Sheehan said the high-powered ATVs have caused ruts and erosion and even trails have “turned to soup.”

Riders, however, say the action will unnecessarily reduce their already limited trails and hurt the local economy.

“It’s a very popular area and it connects us to a lot of places up there and a lot of businesses,” said Diane Dancause, secretary of Adirondack ATV Riders club. The club is based in St. Lawrence County and has 245 acres of its own on which to ride, as well as permission from adjacent land owners. But the roads closed to them Friday is an unnecessary blow, she said.

“Our motto is “stay on the trail,”‘ she said. Dancause acknowledged, however, that some riders wander off into fields and can do some damage, especially if they cleat their tires for traction.

APA spokesman Dan Fitts said court cases were the basis of the agency’s decision. He said New York’s Vehicle and Traffic law states ATVs are prohibited from any roads where automobile traffic is banned, such as the wild forest roads.

The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks sued the DEC in April to close the roads to ATV use.

“This is huge for the Adirondack Park,” said Peter Bauer of the residents’ group. “They have spelled out pretty clearly what they think the law is, and now the only way that ATV riding can happen on the forest preserve is by permit … or folks changing the law, and that takes an act of the Legislature.”

The DEC is considering a comprehensive plan for ATVs and their use, if any, in the Adirondack State Park.

The action represents another significant step in ensuring the continued protection of the Adirondack Park, said DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren.

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AP-ES-07-09-04 1729EDT

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