SLIGO – A request to allow ATVs on the streets of Sligo that was rejected at the borough council’s August meeting brought continued discussion at the group’s September meeting.
Terry Chapla of the new Piney Rail Riders group attended the Sept. 4 meeting, asking questions of the council and discussing the possible connection of Sligo to the trail the group would like to develop.
The Piney Rail Riders is attempting to purchase the rights to one of the only remaining tracts of railroad bed in Clarion County that hasn’t been already purchased and designated a walking/biking trail that excludes any motorized modes of transportation. The ultimate goal for the 39-mile railroad bed would be for a mixed-use trail.
“We put it on hold last month to see what Piney Rail Riders were doing and Piney Township,” councilman Wayne Meier told Chapla about the decision. “Basically, our consensus is if we did open that up, that would be nice, and I think it would also be of benefit to the community. Our discussion last month was if we open all of the streets to ATVs and council was not in favor of that at all.”
Hoping to get some background on council’s thoughts, Chapla asked for the concerns council has on opening some of the streets.
“There’s nowhere to go after you do it if it’s illegal to ride outside and the townships,” said Marsh. “I don’t want them running on my street. They are right now and I’d like to stop them. I have four-wheelers and go to Marienville and all over the place riding. “
A connection to the proposed Piney Trail could be made, but it would take authorization from private landowners.
“We would have to go through Piney,” Meier said. “For example, if Piney Township worked to approve Limestone Flats which runs right into Sligo, then you would have access to Wessex Performance and things like that. Burns Farms also owns property that you could come off of with permission to bring you into town basically. It would be my impression that would be good for the community if you do follow through and get that done. I think Piney Township would probably be on board with it.”
Chapla said that to his knowledge, Piney Rail Riders has not yet met with the Piney Township Supervisors, but the board plans to attend a future meeting.
Meier said it would be nice to be able to ride a four-wheeler into town for gas or to go to Family Dollar.
“If you folks indeed get it up and running, I think it would be a good deal for this area,” he said. “I’ve ridden it since I was 16 years old. I think it would be a good idea for that to happen in the area.”
Marsh said the borough should first talk with property owners along the streets that could be opened.
“They’re going to be the ones who have to put up with all that noise,” he said.
Chapla said support was growing for the project, but it was still a long way in the future and outlined what has to take place.
“The property owner is in support of what we’re trying to do,” Chapla said. “At our last board meeting, he offered us a lease to use the land until we get everything resolved. The first thing is we have to get the funding to do a feasibility study to have engineers come in and check out of all the bridges, look at all of the roads crossings to determine property lines and a lot of other things.”
He said the group is now in the process of writing a grant proposal for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in order to fund an engineering study.
“A lot of the railroad lines around here were bought by the rails-to-trails associations and they close them to motorized vehicles,” he said. “There are fewer opportunities and this is the last chance of getting outdoors to the streams and fish. The upper part of Piney Creek is stocked and there is a catch-and-release section that’s open year round. It gives people the access to those areas for fishing, hunting, hiking, and outdoors.
“We’re not trying to keep it as a closed trail where it would just be ATVs,” Chapla explained. “If you want to walk you can walk it. It will be completely open to everyone.”