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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 12:28 pm 
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REDFIELD — Forestry company Salmon River Timberlands LLC will not allow snowmobilers to use the trails on its property in the town this winter for reasons involving a conflict with town officials, according to a recent letter.

In the letter he sent to Redfield Snowmobile Association President Edward B. Montieth, Matt Smith, director of operations for the Salmon River Timberlands, a subsidiary of WoodWise Land Company LLC, said the company will not open the snowmobile trails to the public because the town board, zoning commission and the Tug Hill Commission allegedly “have rejected the idea of working with our company in any reasonable manner,” but provided no additional information on the issue.

Mr. Smith and WoodWise Land Company would not return several requests for comment.

“All gates will be locked throughout the winter, so in the interest of safety, it is imperative that the club makes every effort to notify the people who have utilized these trails in the past,” Mr. Smith said in his letter, adding that the company will also notify the state Snowmobile Association’s trail coordinator, James Rolf.

About 20 of the about 50 miles of trails the Redfield Snowmobile Association could use and maintain run through the forestry company’s property, Mr. Montieth said.

The trails Salmon River Timberlands has closed off include the portion of the C5 trail running from Harvester Mill Road to the gate at the Oswego-Lewis county line on Salmon River Road, the C5C trail running along Jackson Road from the C5 junction to the Oswego-Lewis county line, and the C5A the trail along Littlejohn Drive. Mad River Club Inc. leases the trails from the company and allows the association to use them, Mr. Montieth said. Club President David Dano could not be reached for comment.

“It’s kind of the southwest gateway to the Tug Hill Region,” said John W. Singer, a member of the Redfield Snowmobile Association’s board of directors, about Redfield.

The association will lose about $8,000 in state funds it receives for maintaining the trails on Salmon River Timberlands’s property, Mr. Montieth said. The state pays snowmobile clubs a certain amount of money per mile for trail work, and Mr. Montieth said the association will still receive state funds for maintaining the about 30 other miles of trails.

“It’s going to affect the snowmobilers even more,” Mr. Montieth said, adding that the forestry company’s property is “where they like to head on to Tug Hill.”

Mr. Singer said snowmobilers who used the trails on Salmon River Timberlands’s property to enter the Tug Hill Plateau will now have to drive through longer and, in some cases, less developed secondary trails. Snowmobilers who own properties in Redfield for trail access have already expressed concerns about the value of their property dropping because the value relies heavily on snowmobile trail access, Mr. Singer said.

“I am a person who owns property and pays taxes in the Town of Redfield ... and that property was purchased and improvements were made solely to snowmobile,” Mr. Singer said, adding that “Snowmobile is one major economic driver in the region.”

Despite the brief period of time from the announcement, the Redfield Snowmobile Association is already exploring replacement options for the trails they lost.

Mr. Montieth said the association has looked toward land along Route 17 in northern Redfield that the state acquired from the Nature Conservancy.

“We’re looking into all possible reconnection areas whether they’re on, through or around this property,” Mr. Singer said.

While the company hadn’t specified its reason for closing the trails to the public, Mr. Montieth said he believes the company’s decision is connected with the proposed wind farm Avangrid Renewbales plans to build on the company’s 20,000-acre property in the towns of Redfield and Worth.

Mr. Montieth said he believes Mr. Smith tried to garner support for the project from snowmobilers, but the decision to close off the trails has already incited anger among some of them. The association president also believes the company’s decision involves its disapproval of town officials’ efforts to create a zoning ordinance, adding that he feels the forestry company is “punishing” snowmobilers for it. Mr. Singer said he believes forestry company officials feel that the town’s effort “restricts their future plans or uses for the property.”

“We’re going to stay right out of it,’ Mr. Montieth said. “Whatever the town decides, that’s the way it ends up.”

Paul N. Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid, said the developer has no direct involvement in the conflict.

“I can’t speak for the landowner ... but their choice is not in any way related to our wind farm permitting efforts,” Mr. Copleman said. “Our site evaluation efforts will not in any way impact the snowmobile trails, and our ability to conduct studies on the property is not impacted by snowmobilers. Our wind farms, in New York and elsewhere, have historically supported all-season trail use during development and when turbines are up and spinning.”

Michael G. Yerdon, chairman of the town’s zoning commission, and Councilwoman Elaine S. Yerdon, who were referenced directly and indirectly in Mr. Smith’s letter respectively, said they didn’t know why Salmon River Timberlands closed the trails to the public.

Mr. Yerdon, who spearheaded the commission’s efforts to create a proposed zoning ordinance, said both the company and Avangrid have attended commission meetings. Salmon River Timberlands had concerns about minimum lot sizes and the developer had concerns relating to zoning language that could affect wind energy development — concerns, Mr. Yerdon said, the commission addressed.

The commission, which the town board approved in December for the purpose of creating a zoning ordinance, also included minor regulations for wind energy facility development in the first draft of the zoning ordinance proposal, Mr. Yerdon said, but removed them because the commission “felt that it was inappropriate and we took it out.”

“I don’t see any relationship with our zoning and why the (Salmon River Timberlands) people closed all their trails,” he said. “I’m somewhat shocked with a statement like that.”

Town officials also recruited the Tug Hill Commission to help with the town’s zoning efforts, an effort Philip J. Street, director of planning for the Tug Hill Commission, said town officials have tried to develop for decades. Mr. Street said he wasn’t privy to the reasons behind Salmon River Timberland’s decision or any alleged issues between the company and the town.

“The Tug Hill Commission provides technical assistance to the Town of Redfield — we’re not policy makers,” Mr. Street said.

Town Supervisor Tanya M. Yerdon could not be reached for comment.

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