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ATV association accused of ‘scamming’ public with benefit ATV rides

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LOWVILLE — All-terrain-vehicle riders who have been told their entry fees in several events benefit the Lewis County trail fund are being scammed, an officer of one prominent ATV club told the Lewis County Legislature.

Patricia J. White, secretary of the Highmarket Wheelers ATV club, presented concerns at last week’s Legislature meeting on how other clubs are handling money collected from fundraising during all-terrain vehicle rides.

“This has got to stop. It’s a scam,” she said, referring to several recent rides advertised to raise funds for the Lewis County trail fund.

Recreational Trail Coordinator Jacqueline L. Mahoney, asked by Mrs. White if the trail department had received any money from area rides, said the county has received no funds.

“We’ve never seen anything,” Mrs. Mahoney said.

County Treasurer Patricia L. O’Brien confirmed no money had been received.

“It would have to go through our office if anything was received,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “We’ve never received any money from any kind of benefit.”

Citing language from event posters and Internet postings for the recent Dick Sellers Ride and ATV Poker Run, both sponsored by the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association, Mrs. White said participants are led to believe profits are going to the county for trail development and maintenance.

The Tug Hill Experience Trade Show and Expo also advertised “all monies go back into Lewis County trail system,” according to event posters.

The event drew more than 1,000 participants in 2012.

Joseph Z. Onyon, president of Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association, denied the wording on the posters was misleading.

“All the money collected by the Tug Hill Adirondack ATV Association does go back into the system,” he said, though he could not point out how the trails in the system received benefits from the proceeds of any club events.

The Expo, which does not charge admission, raises money through vendor booths that goes into advertising and promoting the trails. Money raised at the Expo is kept separate from other fundraisers, Mr. Onyon said, used solely to promote the event the following year.

A full-page ad runs in Rec Rider magazine, a publication popular in Pennsylvania, the month before the Expo for a cost of $500. An additional $600 is spent in radio advertisements.

The ATV Expo booklet contains six pages of advertising and information, including state ATV laws and commonly asked questions about the county’s ATV permit system, and promotes the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. The price tag for those ads, he said, is approximately $2,000. However, that bill is not paid from Expo funds, but from the separate association account.

“It’s just like any business that transfers money from one account to another, “ he said.

Including the purchase of equipment, such as association-owned tractor, tools, trailer, shovels and saws, proceeds from other rides also will go toward the association’s website, newsletter and insurance.

Mr. Onyon said in years past, before Mrs. Mahoney took her position as trail coordinator, the association would perform maintenance on trails and later be reimbursed for the work done.

Though new rules are still being established, Mr. Onyon said, by spring, he hopes to be working on trails under the new protocol that would allow reimbursement for trail work only if preapproved by Mrs. Mahoney.

In the spring, however, no clubs in Lewis County will remain members of the association, as Black River Valley 4 Wheelers recently voted not to renew its membership in 2014.

The remaining association clubs are Northern Oneida County ATV Club and Oswego Valley ATV Club.

When asked if he would change the wording on his posters, Mr. Onyon said, “Not a word.” He said he did not believe the language was confusing.

Mrs. White said she believes the language is misleading, especially to outsiders who come to the county thinking they are helping the county.

The club with which she is affiliated, she said, advertises that the proceeds will be kept by that club.

“If you have a ride and line your pockets, that’s fine. Don’t lie,” she said.

Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, whose business, the Montague Inn, participated in September’s second annual Buck Run, said Friday that even though the county never sees the funds, the money benefits the trail system. A Montague Inn Facebook comment said that the proceeds from the run “benefit the county ATV Trail System Fund.”

“Money went to the ATV association, which is then put right into the trails,” he said, even though no money from the association has been provided to the county.

In addition to giving money to those clubs, “Area business profited, also,” he said. “In turn, they pay sales tax. It’s more money into the county.”

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