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UTV registration is part of state Senate budget package

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CANTON - St. Lawrence County trail development enthusiasts are cheering a provision in the state Senate budget proposal to allow registration of utility task vehicles.

It is time for the state to acknowledge changes in the industry that have increased the weight and design of all-terrain-vehicles and allow their use, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said.

“All we’re trying to do is reflect what is taking place on the street,” he said. “Things are being manufactured differently. This is something that should be recognized.”

UTVs are popular among senior citizens, couples and families.

“From a recreational standpoint, the side-by-sides are a lot easier to ride for older people like me,” county Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, said. “They’re designed for millions of baby boomers who are not in great physical shape. They have seat belts and roll bars. They’re safer.”

The measure authorizing the state Department of Motor Vehicles to allow the registration of the larger recreational vehicles has passed the Senate three times but has never made it out of committee in the Assembly despite the support of Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

“She’s supported it right along and tried to introduce it but has not been successful,” Mr. MacKinnon said.

This is the first time the proposal to allow for UTV registration has been included in the Senate’s budget proposal, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said in a statement.

The legislation has been held up by environmental concerns that the heavier machines are more damaging than regular ATVs. However, that may be because people have an incomplete understanding, Mr. Griffo said.

“People sometimes make decisions based on emotions,” he said.

A better approach would be to legislate the measure, he said, but supporters are happy to see it as part of the Senate budget package.

“You can always try to stretch it because there’s an economic element to it,” Mr. Griffo said.

The county has opened part of a multi-trail system linking recreational networks in Lewis and Franklin counties, and officials see UTVs as a way to expand use and bring in more recreational and tourist dollars. The trail system would be open to bicyclists, hikers, snowmobiles, horse riders and ATVs, all of whose rights are considered by the county’s trail advisory committee.

“One of the major initiatives with our advisory group is we have developed a maintenance plan,” county Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, said.

New York is the only state that does not allow riders to register ATV-type machines that weight more than 1,000 pounds, thus missing out on the economic development possible through sales tax, registration fees and tourist spending on food, gas and lodging, said Debbie A. Christy, the county’s trail coordinator.

“Other states are enjoying the economic benefits,” Mr. Arquiett said. “What we have is a great deal of land that could be utilized. This is a great step forward.”

The Senate proposal will now become part of budget negotiations with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Assembly, Mrs. Ritchie said.

Its future is uncertain.

“I’m hopeful this may be an opportunity, but it may not be probable,” Mr. Griffo said.

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