NY Snowmobile Groups Vow Fight To Preserve Trail Fund

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State and county snowmobile groups in New York are circling their wagons to fight Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to take $1 million a year from a state snowmobile fund drawn from registration fees and intended to fund trail creation and maintenance.

The plan is “a betrayal of the trust between his administration and our 150,000 members,” said Michael Fischer, president of the New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA).

It’s not the first time the governor has tried to shore up the state budget with snowmobile money. Two years ago, he and the state Legislature “swept” $1 million from that fund, along with a number of other specialized funds, into the state’s general fund. But the opposition won, and a chagrined Paterson promised the fund would only be used for snowmobile-related purposes. But this year his budget proposes sweeping $1 million a year – roughly 20 percent of the fund – into the state’s general fund for five years.

Groups all over the state, as well as local officials whose communities rely on the tourism dollars the snowmobile trails bring in, are vowing to put up a fight again.

A Paterson spokesperson told the Albany Post-Journal the money would be spent to maintain parking lots at trailheads and staff snowmobile facilities.

But opponents of the move argue that’s not the purpose of the clearly named Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund.

State Sens. Cathy Young and Joseph Griffo call it a “raid” on the fund. St. Lawrence County Clerk Patty Ritchie, regarded as a potential state senate candidate, urged snowmobilers to fight back with letters and protests and has launched a Facebook page to fight the budget shift. Cayuga County Snowmobile Association members have agreed to write letters to their senators and assemblymen. Other groups are following suit.

Tim Schoff, owner of Schoff Polaris in Rome, told the Utica Daily News it will hurt businesses in Northern New York.

"You have guys that repair the sleds, places people go to eat, hotels, fueling stations -- every kind of business you can think of," he said. "People come here because there are a lot of good trails and a lot of businesses to make a trip worth coming down here. If people stop coming, there are businesses that won't survive."

Posted by Holly Wagner