Mountain Fest proposed ATV day currently not permitted under state law

Brian Stockman
Staff Writer

At a Ridgway Borough Council meeting on Nov. 19, Chamber of Commerce President T.O. Fitch submitted a request for the council to open borough streets to ATVs to support the inaugural Winter Mountain Fest, planned for January. Opening borough streets to ATVs has been an ongoing topic at council meetings for well over a year.
The biggest hurdle is that the main arteries into and through town are PennDOT roads rather than borough streets. These include Main Street, West Main, Front Street, Depot Street, North Broad Street, Mill Street, South Street west of Mill, State Street, Allenhurst, Montmorenci, Bootjack, etc. All of the major bridges in town are also controlled by PennDOT. Therefore, Ridgway Borough has no authority to open these roads and bridges to ATVS. PennDOT does offer a special event permit that, if granted, would allow event organizers to open all or some of these roads and bridges to ATVs. The Elk County Wilds Mountain Fest never applied for such a permit, and instead, petitioned the borough to open its streets so ATVs could access the festival, to be held off of Gillis Avenue in the old Motion Control parking lot.
Council President Sam MacDonald questioned how opening borough streets would offer access to the festival. Unless PennDOT roads and bridges were opened as well, he said, no ATV could legally travel through town to Gillis Avenue. MacDonald pointed out the bridge over the Clarion River as a particular concern.  
Fitch and ATV enthusiast, Terry Hertzog, argued, as they have throughout the past year, that opening borough streets to ATVs would force PennDOT to open their bridges, citing a section of the PA Vehicle Code.
“I have been skeptical of that claim for over a year,” MacDonald said in an interview this week. “The language is vague, but other areas of the state have situations similar to ours, and PennDOT has not opened all of those bridges to ATVs."
After some debate, Fitch said that quick action was needed because he needed to advertise for the festival. Council voted that they would open the streets to ATVs on one day of the festival, January 19, but only if it could be demonstrated that it would be legal to ride ATVs on the bridges and necessary sections of PennDOT roads. They directed Borough Manager Paul McCurdy to consult with Police Chief Ralph Tettis, who was not in attendance at the meeting. 
Later that week, Tettis informed MacDonald that only PennDOT could make a determination on the bridges. On Monday, Nov. 26, MacDonald contacted an official in PennDOT’s District 2 office.  According to MacDonald, the official suggested that the best way forward was for event organizers to apply for the special permit which would allow ATVs to travel PennDOT roads. He offered some instructions, which MacDonald conveyed to the ECWMF organizers.

The full article can be found in Dec. 7 edition of the Ridgway Record.