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KY lawmakers share plan to extend ATV pilot program

From Jordan Hensley, LRC

Frankfort, KY - Two Eastern Kentucky lawmakers are hoping to extend a pilot program that allows ATVs to use state highways to get from one portion of a trail to another.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, and Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, worked on adding the pilot program to an omnibus transportation measure, Senate Bill 215, during the 2021 legislative session.

SB 215 in 2021 gave local governments the ability to petition the state for permission to use a state highway to connect one portion of an ATV recreation trail to another.

The program is set to expire on July 1, 2024, Wheeler and Fugate told the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation on Wednesday. Wheeler said they hope to extend the program another 36 months with new legislation in 2024.

"We're really just now getting to the point to be able to adopt state roads and certain county roads into the ATV trail system," Wheeler said.

Jason Siwula, deputy state highway engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said the administrative regulations took some time to promulgate, but they officially went into effect on March 1, 2023. He said no petitions have been submitted yet.

Jerry Adkins, director for the Pike County Hillbilly Trail System, said ATV recreation trail tourism is already off to a great start, and they hope to file a petition soon.

"We will soon be approaching to ask the Transportation Department to consider having the off-highway vehicles on State Route 197, which will allow us to access Elkhorn City, Kentucky, a few miles down Route 197, which is a trail friendly town," Adkins said.

Adkins said Pike County's trail system officially opened Sept. 30 and permit sales with 15 local retailers have been going well.

Fugate said the ATV recreation trail system is more than just tourism for Eastern Kentucky.

"We've got 18 counties all working together to make this trail system happen, but it's more of an economic development thing than it is tourism," he said.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, asked the panel what other states, like Tennessee and West Virginia, are doing to make ATV tourism a success. Higdon said research on other states played a large role in the 2021 legislation.

Fugate said Kentucky has essentially copied what West Virginia has done for the last 15 to 20 years.

Rep. Tom Smith, R-Corbin, said he was contacted by a constituent who was concerned about the lack of a kill-switch on ATVs after a child died when one was left running.

Wheeler said he's not sure if there's anything Kentucky can do at a state-level to mandate a kill-switch component on ATVs. Smith suggested the legislature consider passing a resolution asking the federal government to improve the safety of ATVs.

Wheeler agreed safety is a huge concern when it comes to ATV use.

During the interim, the Kentucky General Assembly cannot take any action on legislation. The 2024 legislative session begins Jan. 2, 2024.

This story was posted on 2023-11-02 10:08:41
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