New Pa ATV Trail System
By Jessica Welshans
In a year’s time, momentum hasn’t stop in creating a large scale ATV trail in Northcentral Pennsylvania.
The project is called Northcentral Pennsylvania ATV Initiative project, those involved know it isn’t going to
happen in an instant, some hurdles have to be cleared and there have been many obstacles along the way.
Organizations spearheading the effort are coming straight out of Clinton County. The Central Mountains ATV
Association, along with the Clinton County Commissioners, Clinton County Economic Partnership and Tourism
and other agencies like Snow Shoe Rails to Trails and PAOHV Pennsylvania Off-Highway Vehicle Association
have all been working diligently to get this trail complete.
Since the start the trail has grown from its initial report of 800 miles to 1,100.
Henry Sorgen, CMATV club president reports that 44 percent of the trail has been completed. In the 18 months
working the miles have increased because more township roads have opened up to ATVs, thus increasing this
The main drive behind this trail system is to bring economic development not only to Clinton County, but the
entire region it is located in.
Commissioner Jeff Snyder wants people to come into the area, spend their monies at local businesses,
campgrounds, utilize the state parks and other recreations while here – in the end boost the economy, bring
“This is going to benefit our area, our taxpayers and our businesses,” Snyder said.
“It will grow ATV business, enhance tourism and enhance economic growth here in Clinton County and the
region,” Rich Wykoff, club member and tourism chairmen said. Challenges have been in many forms, ranging
from getting townships to change ordinances for roads to be open to ATV travel and working with the state
agencies like the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to include ATVs as vehicles that can use
state forest roads and trails that are currently designated dual purpose as is the case with snowmobiles and
dual sports. The commissioners and committee members for the initiative feel the biggest obstacle has been
the perception of the ATVer as a whole.
Commissioners Snyder and Pete Smeltz said they have had residents of the county approach them being very
against the trail proposal.
“I have run into people during the elections and said we don’t want this because ATVers are bad, they don’t
obey the rules and don’t stay on trails,” Snyder said at a sit down discussing the trail.
He wants people out there to understand, that isn’t all together true.
Because of what CMATV club president calls “the two percenters” – what other ATV and UTV users call riders
who disobey trail rules. These are riders who may ride where they aren’t supposed to, litter, go too fast and
other issues that are just among the few.
Sorgen said the small amount casts a shadow over those who want to enjoy a ride, follow the rules and ride
Snyder wants to know how they can change people’s mindsets.
He and Smeltz believe the first way is looking at the CMATV club. A family friendly riding club, comprised of
more than 850 members, who hail from all over Pennsylvania and out-of-state. The club organizes a plethora of
rides throughout the year, all over the region, that are family friendly and follow all rules, regulations and
ordinances that are set forth.
“Every ride is a guided ride,” Wykoff said. “The big investment in equipment translates to using common sense
when riding … it's the safe thing to do … respect the trails and property they often return to these places and
would rather have good conditions.”
He added that all of this in stark contrast to the 1 % who are responsible for ‘tearing things up’ and being a
general nuisance to neighbors, private property owners and law enforcement.
At a recent county Recreational Board meeting, club members presented a study prepared for and paid for by
the Clinton County Government done by engineering-environmental consultants called Skelly and Loy.
The purpose of the study, titled Clinton County All-Terrain Vehicle Recreational Analysis, is to find out the
economic impact of ATV recreation in Clinton County.
The study began at the CMATV organized Renovo ATV Cruise for a Cure ride on June 6 and the 13th Annual
BBQ Chicken Ride at the Snow Shoe Rail Trail on July 18.
At both events, a total of 130 surveys were given to 328 riders at the two events. Eighty five of those surveys
were completed and able to use the data in the study.
Eric Bruggeman, consultant with Skelly and Loy that comprised the report, said an estimate of $240 was spent
by an ATVer per visit with an average of seven trips in a year. This calculates out to be $2,900 per rider.
“This is a snapshot of an economic analysis and what it means to this county,” Bruggeman said, who also works
with the PAOHV as a state trail committee member, and as an ATV representative.
The second part of the study surveyed leased and owned camps of Clinton County. Bruggeman said in those
surveys participants were asked about what recreation they were coming here to participate in and how often.
They were also asked if they were for or against ATVing in the county.
Five hundred-eighty surveys were sent out and 40 percent of those surveys came back and were used in the
Through this portion of the data collection, Bruggeman reports that camp visitors reported they would like to
see ATV trails in the area to be able to ride on. He said 56 percent were in support, with 35 percent saying they
would come to the county to ride.
“More people support it then actual do it now. That’s significant,” Bruggeman said.
He remitted that this is just a snapshot study, and not a long two year study that larger institutions may do, but
this study’s collection are good numbers.
Wykoff added that when the county commissioners decided to go ahead with this study, it was to really look at
what is going on right here, right now.
“We need to promote this area to be a recreational haven (that it already is),” Smeltz said.
In Clinton County, active registered ATVs have hit high numbers. In 2014, there were 1,332 machines and in
2015, 1,338. Compared to snowmobiles which had active registration of 420 in 2014 and 385 in 2015, the
group looks at these numbers and sees they reflect popularity of ATVs and UTVs.
Commissioner Snyder said the Clinton County All-Terrain Vehicle Recreational Analysis will be made available
online at the county website for the public to view it.
“I believe that there are many people, especially current and perhaps future business people, who recognize
the value of having ATV riders come to our area. This study supports the positive economic impact that would
occur. This is also a family activity,” Snyder said.
The trail is proposed to be located in all the same areas once discussed, to connect Clinton, Centre, Potter,
Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, Cameron and a small portion in Lycoming counties. It will reach into four state forest
districts and 59 townships.
As the process continues the club, commissioners, tourism partnership and other agencies involved are
working with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the trail system that has to cross into those
The proposed trail is designed using municipality roads, pre-existing trails that run parallel to forestry roads
used for snowmobile trails, power lines and pipelines, and some low use forestry roads, to which they said
DCNR will have to advise the club on Sorgen said.
DCNR monitor, maintain and regulate legal trail systems across the state located on State forest ground.
For instance, a proposed trail will connect trail systems already in place starting in Clinton County like The
Bloody Skillet, Whiskey Springs, Haneyville, and Denton Hill areas.
The membership driven Snow Shoe Rail Trail, a large ATV trail located in Clinton, Clearfield and Centre
counties, has also played an integral part in planning the new system.
Commissioner Snyder said the ATV committee is moving forward with a plan that hopefully will get the support
of the state and municipalities to connect the Whiskey Spring trail with other establish trails.
_________________ Additional Commentary____________________
Perception versus reality... we deal with it every day. It guides our opinions, the positions we take on matters,
and the decisions we make. This is very much the situation with the ATV project that we have been developing
over this past year and a half. Three wheel and four wheel all-terrain vehicles have been around for several
decades. They have been used as utility vehicles and as recreational vehicles. Like any other recreation, a
small portion of those who participate choose to disregard common sense, common courtesy, and the rule of
law as they enjoy their sport. Very often, this results in damage to property, unsafe conditions, and someone
getting hurt or killed. Name a recreational activity and you will find this to be true of a small portion, commonly
referred to as “the one percent”, who shed a bad light on the sport.
As we visit the townships and communities in our region presenting the ATV project, the “one percent” has
been consistently offered as the reason people and communities have been reluctant to open their property
and roads to use by ATV enthusiasts. Fortunately, we are able to present a different perspective on the
changing face of the ATV sport and those who have been investing in a growing tourist industry that relies on
business from ATV owners. Today's average ATV owner invests $5,000 to $15,000 in a unit and spends
another $2,000 to $20,000 on a rig to haul it. These units are pulled by pickups that are not cheap to buy and
maintain. Each year as we have attended the Renovo ATV Cruise For A Cure, our ATV rodeo, and the events
at Snow Shoe Rails to Trails, we have been amazed to see the growth in numbers of these big rigs pulling into
the staging areas and parking lots. Often we see half a million dollars of equipment parked in those lots. The
families who own those rigs come to ride, have fun, camp, and enjoy the company of others of like mind.
Camaraderie is central to the nature of today's ATV rider. That is the primary reason our club has grown from a
hundred members a few years ago to 850 members this past December. These are the people who will be
attracted to this trail system and the communities that are connected to them.
Those areas in West Virginia, New Hampshire, Utah, and other states understand this and are drawing a lot of
business to their communities. A recent study in West Virginia showed that the Hatfield-McCoy Trails have
become a $2 billion tourist trade in an area that is in a struggling coal region. This summer, CMATV club
members will be riding to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire during a 3 day tour of trails in that
state. We want, and can grow that kind of business in our region and can offer a great deal more to those who
will come to enjoy riding in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
This project since the beginning has been guided by two principles. The primary focus has been to develop a
map that encourages, as best it can, opportunities for economic growth in the communities within the region we
know as the Pennsylvania Wilds. The second and equally important focus has been to assure that the system
be designed to follow a consistent set of guidelines that comply with state and federal regulations for safe and
legal riding. The DCNR ATV licensing program has provided us with the first level of consistency in regulation
by requiring helmets, age restriction, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. As municipalities are
presented with the sample ordinance and state regulations for ATV use of roadways, it becomes more clear
that having these rules in place makes it harder for “the 1%” to be a nuisance and sets the standard for safe
riding for those who will be riding into their communities to stay, eat, and get gas.
In a year and a half, we have come a long way with the project. Of course, there have been, and will continue to
be, challenges that will take time to resolve. We started with a map with red dots that were the communities in
the region and a question: How do we connect these communities so that people can ride between them on
ATVs? It is remarkable that in this short time we have been able, as Henry said, to find a way to ride 44% of a
proposed 1100 mile set of roads and trails. Additionally, we have found that there are several viable projects
within this large map that are worth the effort to develop as gateways into the trail system. Each involves a set
of communities and businesses that would greatly benefit from the tourist dollars that would come with that
designation. (Much like that which has happened in Bennezette and the elk herd.)
This project has benefitted greatly from the participation at bi-monthly meetings of ATV organizations, business
owners, county resource people, county representatives, and state representatives. We expect that this group
will continue to guide this project for a while yet. In the meantime, you can follow the project by contacting
Central Mountains ATV Association, Inc., The Clinton County Commissioners, and the Clinton County Economic
Partnership Tourism Director.