Proposed in the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly by the Democratic Senator Ray Jones II from the 31st District, is KY SB 102. Legislation that would amend existing KRS legislation to allow ATV's to use the Pine Mountain Trail. The existing legislation establishing the Trail prohibits motorized vehicles in the effort to protect the unique environment of the Pine Mountain ridgeline, thereby preserving for future generations these untrammeled fragile areas. Penalties for violating these statutes are as high as $500.00 per day. Senator Jones spent January 2nd traversing many miles of the Trail on an ATV along with some 20 other ATV's and riders and then introduced SB 102 on January 15th, 2016
Proposed without any prior consultation, SB 102 would require The Pine Mountain Trail to grant usage rights to ATV's. The reality is the Pine Mountain Trail possesses no ATV usage rights.The Pine Mountain Trail owns no property. The Pine Mountain Trail is merely a complex arrangement of agreements, easements, understandings, even handshake agreements to allow a foot-trail across properties owned and administered by others, both private and public, across 8 counties in two states.The PMT’s usage as a hike trail was the only crossing rights ever negotiated with these various entities. The PMT does not possess any motorized vehicle passage rights and the PMT cannot give or grant those rights to anyone wishing to use the trail on an ATV. Indeed all of our agreements expressly forbid motorized vehicles and none of our agreements would be legal or viable if SB 102 is enacted. In violation of all of our agreements the Pine Mountain Trail ceases to exist. Without the Trail and without property owners permission, ATV users would be subject to KRS 189.575 section (2) A person shall not operate an all-terrain vehicle on private property without the consent of the landowner, tenant, or individual responsible for the property, and, section (3) A person shall not operate an all-terrain vehicle on public property unless the governmental agency responsible for the property has approved the use of all-terrain vehicles. Without approvals, ATV use would be illegal on what was the Pine Mountain Trail. and the ATV riders gain nothing from this legislation....an outcome preferable to the Pine Mountain Trail ever being a party to the destruction of the environment along the Pine Mountain ridgeline.
SB 102 has catastrophic consequences for the Pine Mountain Trail and its use as a hiking trail. There is zero compatibility between hiking and ATV usage. They cannot coexist. The viability of the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail as an attraction to bring hikers and tourists into our area has no future if ATV's are allowed continuing use of the Trail.
This precedent-setting legislation is little more than the confiscation of public and private properties for a personal ATV playground. Do we have to give the Senator access to the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail just to protect Kentucky's other state parks? How far can you tow an ATV?
As the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail follows the ridge boundary between Kentucky and Virginia, the Trail frequently moves from one state to the other and back and forth continuously. Of the 13.2 miles of the Trail from the Carson Island trailhead to the Birch Knob Observation Tower, more than 8 miles, some 61% of the trail is in Virginia. On the Senator's trek, he spent most of his time riding illegally on an ATV in the protected Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.
It is ironic that the young state senator that authored the legislation to bring the Pine Mountain Trail into existence is the same state senator authorizing the legislation to terminate it. For nineteen years the PMTC has built and maintained the trail, secured agreements, constructed shelters, spring boxes and signage. Countless volunteer man-hours, grants, gifts, and assistance would in an instant all be wasted. The Senator's legacy and our legacy trashed with a piece of legislation designed to get a few votes in the coming election.
If you want to hike the Pine Mountain Trail, you should do it in 2016. If you have never hiked the trail, do it this year. If you have hiked the trail and wish to repeat the experience, do it this year. The Pine Mountain Trail Conference, the legal entity tasked with building and maintaining the trail, will continue its work through this year. But for all the volunteers that have worked on the trail......it's going to take a while to get over this.
HISTORY OF THE TRAIL
The Trail began as a community development project in 1998 with Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Services. In 2000, a 501(c)3 chartered as the Pine Mountain Trail Conference, began constructing trail on lands managed by the Jefferson National Forest. Kentucky’s governor, Paul Patton, supported and pushed for the creation of the Pine Mountain Trail State Park in 2002. The projected trail, covering some 110 miles from the Breaks Interstate Park to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, may be the most complex legal entity ever proposed as a Kentucky State Park. Spread across 2 states and multiple Kentucky and Virginia counties, numerous private property owners, and even more public tracts of land requiring countless agreements with the Breaks Interstate Park, US Army Corps of Engineers, Jefferson National Forest, Bad Branch State Nature Preserve, Nature Conservancy lands, Pine Mountain-Hensley Wildlife Management Area, Kingdom Come State Park, Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve, Hi-Lewis Pine Barrens State Nature Preserve, Kentenia State Forest. We have agreements with the Letcher County Fiscal Court, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife, the Kentucky Department of Parks, the Southeast Community College, and the Kentucky Division of Forestry. We have made countless concessions to gain a hike trail on some of the most pristine and scenic highlands in Kentucky and Virginia thru negotiations with some of the most dedicated, hard-headed property and resource managers and owners, public and private, that were determined to protect and preserve their part of our natural resources as a legacy for future generations. That you would, and could legally, put an ATV on a foot of this trail is legislation that is incomprehensible in its disregard for the natural environment.