PHILIPSBURG — At a special meeting Wednesday night, Rush Township Supervisors approved by a 2-1 vote to have a 2.5-mile stretch of Peale Road as a dual purpose road that includes recreational vehicle usage.
There were plenty of residents on hand to provide the pros and cons on the matter, as well as others from nearby municipalities and organizations. Supervisors deliberated opening Peale Road for dual usage, with Snow Shoe Rails to Trails providing maintenance and upkeep of the road..
The roadway has been off of the township’s liquid fuels list for many years.
Snow Shoe Township Supervisor Rodney Preslovich said his municipality has legalized the use of ATVs, UTVs, etc. on its roads for many years.
“It’s the best thing we ever did,” Preslovich said.
Preslovich said there were a few complaints in the beginning by residents, but there are “no complaints” about it now.
“If we do have any kind of trouble with the four-wheelers, it’s the local kids,” Preslovich said. “You’ll have that with or without (roads being legal or illegal). It’s a good thing for us.”
In Snow Shoe Township, Preslovich said those using township roads there must be registered with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and a SSRT member — the latter of which he stated was not for SSRT to make money, but the group also requires proof of insurance.
Rush Township resident Jackie Lewis said she passed around a petition and got 56 signatures from residents on three township roads — Coaldale Road, Loch Lomond Road and One Mile Run — who feel the road should not be opened for recreational use.
“What a safety and liability nightmare to our residents and township if this proposed ordinance is passed,” Lewis said. “Why would we open our doors up to something of this nature?”
Chairman Sam Estright also read an email from a person who owns a camp along that area and voiced the same concerns in regard to trespassing and the amount of traffic.
SSRT Secretary Larry Mayes said 20 miles of roads in Snow Shoe Township are used by the group, and they pay over $14,000 in insurance each year for that right. Mayes also said most of the problems that take place in Snow Shoe aren’t actually SSRT members. If there are problems, the group communicates with the Centre County Sheriff’s Office and they handle the problem.
Supervisor Dave Jackson said he’s heard rumors over the past couple of weeks that the township was looking into opening all roads, to which Jackson stressed is “not the case.”
“If we’ve got a road that a person has a concern with — say the road is just full of kids — I’d have a concern with that myself,” Jackson said. “If the residents of that road show enough concern to block that road, putting up a sign is not going to stop it. But it’s going to let them know that we don’t agree with them being on that road.”
Moshannon State Forest District Forester John Hecker said they have an interest in this because they own land within the township. Hecker said he’s supported the SSRT efforts previously and thinks the group is a “good thing,” but as a land manager, he would hope the supervisors would take the environment and other nearby land owners into consideration if opening up any roads at a later date in the Moshannon State Forest.
“I hope we would be consulted,” Hecker said. “There’s a number of things we’re concerned with.”
Resident Matt Chverchko said others have expressed valid concerns in regard to noise, pollution and trespassing. However, he said “this dual use is not a new concept.”
“They’ve been doing it in the Rockies for decades,” Chverchko said. “It’s very popular down south and it’s very successful in West Virginia. It’s opened up a lot of isolated communities and businesses there.”
Chverchko said even if the township allowed access, there will still always be people who drink and ride, trespass, ride illegally and abuse the system, much like people do with regular vehicles on highways. But with the SSRT, at least some of these things should be kept at a minimum.
“What you have now is an organization that is offering to police that, carry insurance and be liable for that, (have) volunteer people and hold fundraisers, have trash collectors and do all kinds of stuff to improve it,” Chverchko said. “I kind of don’t understand what the argument is. Right now, it’s a problem. You have someone that’s offering to give a solution, in return for safe passage on the road. It seems to me like it’s a no brainer.”
Others felt the pros outweighed the potential cons and many that spoke realized it’s a topic that can’t fully be agreed upon.
“We’re not asking for 100 percent approval here,” resident Ashlee Foreman said. “Some people are going to hate it. But a lot of people are going to like it, too.”
When asked if the ordinance could be accepted “as a trial run,” Jackson said the whole thing is essentially a trial run.
“Even though it’s an ordinance, all it takes is for us to say no,” Jackson said. “We can stop it as quick as we start it. And if we see abuse, we’ll take advantage of that opportunity and cancel this out.”
Jackson and fellow Supervisor Pat Romano Jr. then voted to approve the ordinance allowing Peale Road to become a joint use road once proper signage is posted, which was received with applause from a majority attending the meeting. Estright voted against the matter.
“I’m still not sold (on the matter),” Estright said of his no vote.