Enjoying the Great Outdoors

By State Sen. Patty Ritchie

One of my favorite ways to spend my rare days off with my family is to enjoy the wilderness trails that crisscross Northern and Central New York. Snowmobiling and All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) riding is more than just one of the benefits of living in upstate New York. It’s one of the ways we beat cabin fever and explore the winter wonderland that is just off the main roads and highways of our region.

That’s why I made my proposed utility terrain vehicle (UTV) bill, which I helped move out of the Senate Transportation Committee last week, a major priority. It’s the first step in helping the bill to become law. In my previous career as a county clerk, I personally spoke to a lot of families who had invested in what’s known as UTVs. UTVs allow couples to ride side by side. They also allow a parent to bring a child with them on what can be a major adventure off the beaten track in places like Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence County. Unfortunately, New York State has failed to keep up with the latest technological advances so families are unable to register their UTVs under existing law.

The result is that many families that spent thousands of dollars to buy the vehicles are unable to register them. Some are traveling as far away as Pennsylvania to register their vehicles. It’s leaving many people upset and frustrated that their state government is out of touch with the day to day needs of their family. We who have chosen to live among upstate New York’s rivers, lakes and mountains understand far better than some of our big city brethren that outdoor sports like snowmobiling, ATV riding, hunting and fishing are more than just a great way to spend a day with friends and family.

Those outdoor activities are also critical to our effort to revitalize our region’s economy. They bring tourists to the 48th Senate District and encourage our own residents to visit many of our less travelled rural areas that desperately need to attract customers to their stores, diners and businesses.

That’s why outdoor sports legislation is so important to my communities and why we need to lure the next generation away from their indoor video games to sample what the great outdoors can offer them. That why the legislative package I have supported includes:

S177A: allows 12-year-olds to obtain a junior archery license, making it consistent with age requirements for a junior hunting license. An experienced parent, guardian or adult would be required to accompany them. Has passed the senate.

S794: Allows people who want to learn about fishing to participate in a school or university sponsored class or clinic without being required to first buy a fishing license. Has passed the senate.

S554: Allows children under 14 to participate in programs like sanctioned snowmobile racing with their parents consent. Has passed the senate.

Common sense measures like these bills will help give the next generation a better understanding of what makes our region so special and why we must fight to preserve our way of life.