Tom Doak of the Maine Woodland Association recently published a report about the work of the ATV Task Force, which Tom serves on. The group is tackling a lot of issues and must issue a final report and recommendations to the governor by January 1. Here is Tom’s latest report.
The ATV Task Force that Governor Mills established, on which I serve, continues to work through a long list of issues and will produce a set of recommendations and report by the end of December. The report goes directly to the Governor, though we all expect the recommendations to result in action by the Legislature in the upcoming session which begins in January.
I have already mentioned in past columns that I believe the task force will recommend a maximum size of what counts as an ATV. In the “I didn’t know that” category, many members of the task force were surprised to learn how many public roads are open to ATV riding and that dirt bikes are considered ATV’s. Even a motorcycle can be registered as an ATV.
Our recent meetings have pointed out the need for clear standards for ATV trail construction and maintenance along with regular inspection of the condition of trails. One of the most consistent concerns from a landowner point of view is the lack of comprehensive maintenance of trails. Landowners, large and small, make available nearly 7,000 miles of ATV trails in Maine, while receiving no benefits for that access. Expecting landowners to absorb the cost of maintaining and repairing the trail network is unrealistic and should be the responsibility of the State ATV program, local ATV Clubs and ATV riders. How the ATV trail system is maintained, including where the funds will come from to maintain the trails to a sound and environmentally responsible standard, will be a major finding of the task force. It is clear that the current level of funding cannot adequately maintain the existing number of ATV trails.
There will be some hard decisions to make going forward. In parts of Maine, particularly in rural Maine, ATV riding has an important and growing economic impact. But the ATV trail system, State ATV Program, and regulation of ATV’s have never been properly funded. The final report will be submitted to the Governor by January 1, 2020. As soon as the report is finished, it will be posted on our website www. mainewoodlandowners.org.