Florida county debates support for opening state forest land to ATVs

Publish Date: 
Mar 19, 2013

VOLUSIA, Fla. – Residents are taking sides as the Volusia County Council prepares to debate a request from the city of Daytona Beach to support its resolution asking the state to open all the roads and fire lanes inside the Tiger Bay State Forest to street-legal vehicles and set aside a separate 2,700-acre area for ATVs and dirt bikes.

The panel is scheduled to discuss the request from the city and lead proponent Greg Gimbert at about 3 p.m. March 21 at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center in DeLand.

Hikers, equestrians and birdwatchers oppose opening the trails to vehicles. But riders are confident they will win access to the trails in the 27,395-acre forest, which has 62 miles of trails that are not open to motor vehicles.

A Facebook group called Open Tiger Bay State Forest sent more than 160 letters supporting opening the trails to public officials last week, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

About 18,000 acres of Tiger Bay were bought through two state programs designed to protect environmentally sensitive lands: the Environmentally Endangered Lands program and Save Our Rivers, a program geared toward the acquisition and restoration of water resources.

Last week, Anthony Petellat, District Manager for the Florida Forest Service, writing on behalf of Adam Putnam, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told the county that the proposal is not considered a compatible use, a position supported by other state land managers.

Also, state records show attendance at Croom Motorcycle Area at Withlacoochee State Forest, where the state runs an ATV park, reached its highest point in 2006-2007. Last year, the state collected $342,117 in revenue at Croom and spent $427,000 in maintenance and management costs, said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for the agriculture department.

Posted by Holly Wagner