MALONE - It could cost about $80,000 to $100,000 a year if Franklin County moves forward with plans to create an all-terrain vehicle trail through it from St. Lawrence County to Clinton County.
Much of the money for the trails, however, could likely be made up through a permitting system and through grants.
Chastity Miller, manager of the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, presented to the county's ATV committee Thursday a list of costs and revenues she and county Tourism Director Neil Seymour had compiled after talking with the trail coordinators in Jefferson and Lewis counties.
Lewis County, which has been leading the effort to create and maintain ATV trails in northern New York, has created 47.6 miles of trail so far, and Jefferson County has 36 miles of trail and 334 miles of road opened up to ATV riders.
Miller said the process tends to be more expensive when the trails are being created, because of costs associated with State Environmental Quality Review procedures, lawyer fees and trail creation.
Lewis County paid about $90,000 for its SEQR, and Jefferson County representatives estimated their SEQR cost about $110,000. But Miller said once a general SEQR was done, both counties were able to add smaller trails afterward for a much smaller cost.
Lewis County had a budget of about $140,000 for its trail system in 2008 and 2009, the years when it was being established. The county is estimating it will spend about $86,000 in 2010 and has $88,500 budgeted for 2011.
Miller said Jefferson County's costs are in the same ballpark.
She said both counties estimate the cost of maintaining trails each year is about $17,000 per mile. Included in that cost are in-kind services, like if an ATV club member volunteers equipment and time to fix a washed-out section of trail.
Franklin County Legislator Ray Susice, D-St. Regis Falls, said he's absolutely positive it won't cost $17,000 a mile to maintain trails if they are created in Franklin County.
Legislator Tim Burpoe, D-Saranac Lake, agreed, saying he's hoping the trail system will be about 80 percent built on existing infrastructure like logging roads.
Miller said the $17,000 per mile isn't as bad as it seems, since they plan to rely heavily on help from ATV club volunteers.
"I don't want to scare anyone with $17,000," she said.
Lewis County uses a permit system to raise revenues for ATVs, with an end goal of having the permits cover several counties in an integrated trail system and sharing the revenues between counties.
Sean Reynolds, a representative of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said Franklin County has an average of about 3,900 to 4,000 registered ATVs each year.
Legislator Dan Crippen, D-Burke, said there are probably about twice as many riders, but they don't bother registering because they don't have a place to ride.
Miller also said she's been looking through potential sources for grants. Yamaha and Polaris, companies that make ATVs, both have grants for ATV trails, but she said it would open up options to other grant revenue if the group decides to consider the trail system multi-use - open to other users like horseback riders, hikers and snowmobilers.
The Franklin County committee, consisting of county legislators, ATV interests, DEC representatives and other interested parties, has been studying the issues around creating the ATV trail for about a year now.
Lewis County Trail Coordinator Bob Diehl, the main force behind Lewis County's trail system, came to Franklin County to push his vision of an integrated ATV trail system stretching from Lewis up through Clinton County and into Vermont or Canada.
In forming the committee, legislators said they'd rather take a cautious, studied approach to the trail rather than push it through quickly and deal with potential lawsuits in the aftermath, as Lewis County has done.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.