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County trail coordinator wants trails opened up in Brasher State Forest

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BRASHER FALLS — St. Lawrence County’s trail coordinator told Brasher Town Council members that she’d like to see trails open in the Brasher State Forest as part of the effort to promote a countywide recreational trail system.

But Debbie A. Christy was preaching to the choir.

“Absolutely. I support it myself,” Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said. “It’s something we were definitely interested in.”

Ms. Christy said county officials decided that creating a multiuse trail could give economic help to towns and villages along the route. The corridor trail already has been configured from Lewis County, through St. Lawrence County and to Franklin County, she said.

“Our group looked at the issues in Lewis County and wanted to take the right steps,” she said, noting it was looking for “key roads” to get from trail head to trail head.

Having the Brasher State Forest open for use would be a big boost in that quest, she said.

“We would greatly love to have the Brasher Forest and the Brasher area as a community connector,” Ms. Christy said.

So would the town of Brasher, according to Mr. Dawson, who said thus far it hasn’t been able to get the trails open in the state forest.

He noted the forest had truck trails, which he suggested were not under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. But, he and Councilman John M. Keenan said, DEC had put those trails off limits to all-terrain vehicle traffic.

DEC has a similar policy in Jefferson and Lewis counties.

Mr. Keenan said four-wheelers and snowmobiles at one time had been permitted on the trails.

Mr. Dawson said if the trails were open, “clubs would be resurrected and police themselves,” and law enforcement officials also could play a part in keeping the trails safe and open to the public.

“If somebody goes down where they’re not supposed to be, there’s enough law enforcement. If somebody is abusing it, give them a ticket. If somebody is driving 85 miles an hour on a highway, we don’t close the highway down because somebody drove 85,” Mr. Dawson said.

He said there had been conversations with DEC officials, who indicated they had heard stories of damage in the Brasher State Forest because of ATV use.

He said that, in an email to the DEC commissioner and assistant commissioner, St. Lawrence County Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, had said that “was greatly exaggerated. That wasn’t the case.”

The supervisor said he also had talked with DEC Regional Director Judy Drabicki about the possibility of opening some of the trails.

“I said, ‘Judy, we’ve got nearly 100 miles and some roads are disputed. We can work that out,’” Mr. Dawson said.

Every little bit would help in promoting economic activity in the region, he said.

“It will not make everybody rich, but it helps these business owners to survive. Every time they get a little bit of extra business, it helps keep the lights on and the heat on,” he said.

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