Environment Money State Proposed APV Trails in Zaleski and Vinton Forests spark concern By Alejandro Figueroa Posted on September 13, 2018 5 min read 0 2 264 Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources purchased 1,800 acres of land in Brown County last week. Photo by Alejandro Figueroa. Ohio state forests have limited land space for recreational hiking and environmentalists believe Zaleskis and Vinton Forests could be threatened by the proposed plans for APV trails. Environmental conservationists are concerned about new all-purpose vehicle (APV) trails and their environmental implications, which were proposed in Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ annual work plan. The plans called for revisions to APV trails, the establishment of new APV trails and features, new property acquisitions for trails, and area expansions. “All-purpose vehicle trails are proposed for particular state forests for several reasons, including size and continuity of the forest, which would allow for longer trails to be established,” Stephanie Leis, public information officer at ODNR, said in an email. The plan identifies Vinton Furnace, Zaleski, and Shawnee State Forests as priorities, which sparked concerns within the hiking community about the environmental impacts. “What we need to do is preserve what we have,” Dave Ackerman, co-chair of the Forests and Public Lands Committee of the Ohio Sierra Club, said. Hikers usually come to Zaleski’s and Vinton Forests to seek refuge and solidarity from the city; they come to camp, observe birds or ride on the horse trails, Ackerman said. The introduction of APV trails has the potential to upset the tranquility of the forests. Ohio ranked 47th per capita in the U.S. for amount of public land, meaning that Ohio lacks the public space that many other states have. Many environmentalists’ concerns revolve around this fact, Loraine McCosker, an associate of Ackerman, said. With 163 miles of APV trails currently, some fear that hiking space will be compromised by motorized vehicles. “It’s an overreaction (from) the non-motorized users to think that this is going to greatly impact them,” said Tom Cowher, chairman of the Motorcycle Trail Division from the Ohio Motorized Trails Association. The proposed APV trails could also intervene with reptile and bird populations, as well as bobcat populations, which are still in the low numbers. Another concern is the highly erodible soil found in these forests. Soil is compacted by the passage of APV riders, which either makes the soil too hard for vegetation to grow or erodes away vital layers to the growth of different vegetation. There is no symbiotic relationship between the state forests and APV riders, Ackerman said. In terms of revenue, construction and maintenance of APV trails is paid for by APV users through registration fees and fees paid per user for riding a trail. A gasoline tax is also imposed on APV users. With these fees, APV riders provide over $1 million in revenue that the ODNR distributes toward the construction of new APV trails and maintenance of non-motorized trails. The trails could also impact the local economy. Motorized vehicle communities could bring more business, jobs and revenue to Athens and Vinton counties through “either current businesses or there could be an influx of brand new business,” Cowher said. If the proposed trail system is approved, construction would begin in the 2019 fiscal year. The construction of the trails would take several years to complete and be done in several stages.