Pennsylvania considers charging for game land use


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  • The game commission says horseback riding, bicycling, and snowmobiling take their toll on gameland trails.



Pennsylvania may soon charge a fee for snowmobilers, equestrians and mountain bikers who use state game land trails.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will likely vote on the plan next month.

The proposed license of up to $30 is designed as a plan to raise money for trail upkeep. Hikers wouldn't be charged, and hunters already pay a fee. Horses, bicycles and snowmobiles can damage trails, but hikers and birdwatchers typically don't, said Travis Lau, spokesman for the Game Commission.

Some outdoor enthusiasts say the proposed fee is unfair and would be too cumbersome.

“How is this going to be enforced? Toll booths at trailheads?" asked Neil Brennen, a blogger and motivational speaker who talks about his experience using hiking as a means to lose weight.

The Game Commission expects to vote on the plan at their Sept. 22-23 meeting in Delmont. The proposal would require equestrians, cyclists and snowmobilers to have a state game lands shooting range permit to use more than 1,328 miles of designated trails.

Lau said the commission reviewed its records and identified $230,000 in costs associated with trail maintenance and signage over the past three years. Projects to build or maintain roads, parking lots and other infrastructure topped $4 million.

Elizabeth Krug of Erie, president of the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association, says the enthusiasts donate time to groom the trails.

Krug said more than 3,000 miles of publicly available snowmobile trails and joint-use roads snake through Pennsylvania. State game lands represent about a tenth of that total, but many connect to routes on other property. Snowmobilers, then, would be forced to pay a user fee just to traverse the small portion of trail they are riding, she said.

“If they'd like to charge a fee, we'd like to talk about alternatives," Krug said.

Brennen said he thinks implementing a user fee for horseback riders, snowmobilers and cyclists will be a debacle, so he's not concerned the commission will eventually go after hikers, too.

Some activities, including all-terrain vehicle use, are already banned on many trails because of the potential for damage.


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