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DNR Announces Results of Off-Road Vehicle Trail Review Process
by kking

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that of the three off-road vehicle (ORV) trails proposed for State-owned lands in Western Maryland, St. John’s Rock in Garrett County on the Savage River State Forest was the single property selected for ORV use. DNR made the decision based on comments gathered during the public input period this summer/fall.

“We are thankful to the citizens who took the time to share their input through the public process both at the meetings and through our online system,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill. “This is a great example of the department working with our professionals in the field to craft sound proposals and using public input to help guide the ultimate outcome. We also recognize the great work of the ORV Stakeholder Workgroup in helping lead us to this proposal phase and promise to continue coordinating with them to find alternative locations for this type of recreation.”

Ecologists and trail experts will work to establish paths and boundaries for ORV-use to develop the system for St. John’s Rock that would have minimal impact on surrounding natural resources. The system, slated for completion in the summer of 2014, will be managed, monitored, and its regulations enforced to ensure ecological best management practices.

“Our trails team is looking forward to implementing the new paradigm of ORV management on St. John’s Rock,” said John Wilson, manager of the Statewide Trails Development Office. “Working with our peers in land management, enforcement and information technology, we are confident that this trail, and all future ORV trails, can be well-regulated, safe and sustainable. We are committed to that end and look forward to demonstrating our plans for success.”

The other two proposals ─ Sideling Hill North and South trails, within the Woodmont Natural Resources Management Area near Hancock in Allegany County ─ have been withdrawn and removed from further consideration as ORV trails.

DNR will continue to fortify ongoing efforts to develop public/private partnerships on potential private land ORV trails, and further evaluate opportunities to acquire access to other private land locations for multi-use recreational facilities.

A number of ORV trails were developed within the State Forests in the mid 1980s, quickly becoming a popular, in-demand form of recreation. However, most of the trails had to be closed in 2011, as some of the activity began to threaten environmentally sensitive areas. With only a few small ORV trails still open, DNR began a comprehensive two-year study to assess its landholdings and develop a plan that would incorporate these trails in a manner that would have minimal impact on sensitive natural areas.