Unauthorized ATV riding and ATV trail development in the East Lynn Lake Wildlife Management Area in East Lynn, W.Va., has been a growing problem, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been evaluating different options that would address the issue. Recently, the Hatfield-McCoy Authority approached the Huntington District with a proposal that could address the unauthorized activity.
The District has engaged with the Hatfield and McCoy Authority in order to explore a “managed” ATV trails option at East Lynn Lake. The Authority submitted a proposal to manage legal trail riding at East Lynn in September of 2016. The District reviewed this proposal and sought clarification of the Authority’s law enforcement plan and trail routes.
The first step in finalizing the plan is to create an inventory of existing unauthorized trails on the property. The District has authorized the Hatfield McCoy Authority to survey and inventory all trails at East Lynn Lake. That survey began on March 15, 2017 and will be concluded by Sept. 15, 2017.
Upon completion of the inventory, the Hatfield McCoy Authority will provide a management plan to the District who will then evaluate the plan to determine if the Hatfield McCoy Authority is able to improve public safety, reduce the environmental degradation, and address the current unauthorized ATV activity occurring on U.S. Government property at East Lynn Lake.
As the District works toward a decision, public meetings will be held to seek input and keep the public informed on the process and outcome of this request. The dates and time of the public meeting are to be announced.
Frequently asked questions:
1. I have heard from various sources throughout the community the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), is in the process of partnering with the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority to develop and manage a trail system on East Lynn Lake property.
As publicly announced in March of 2017, the Corps has authorized the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority (H-M Authority), to inventory all the existing unauthorized trails located on East Lynn Lake property. The inventory will be completed by 15 September 2017. Upon completion of the inventory the H-M Authority will develop a proposal and present it to the Corps. No decisions will be made until the Corps can fully evaluate the proposal.
2. What is the reason for this partnership with the H-M Authority and where will it occur?
Use of motorized vehicles off public roadways on East Lynn Lake is prohibited by the rules and regulations that govern the public use of Corps properties, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327. 2 (c), Vehicles. This regulation has been in effect since the lake went into operation back in 1969. Since that time, unauthorized use by all forms of motor vehicles, ATV’s, UTV’s, dirt bikes, etc., has continued to grow causing damage to the environment, litter, noise, and concerns over public safety. The portion of East Lynn Lake property under consideration for trail development is that located on the south side of the lake and within the Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This area is licensed to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), who also prohibit the use of motorized vehicles off public roadways under their regulations. The H-M Authority can potentially provide a professionally managed trail system that will provide users with a safe riding experience, as well as, providing environmental protection, adequate enforcement, and also economic benefit to the local communities.
3. I have a folded two sided map of East Lynn Lake from the Corps that identifies a road system shown in red. Will I still be able to ride on these roads if the Corps partners with the H-M Authority to provide a managed trail system at East Lynn Lake?
Since the publication of that map a number of years ago, the Corps has met with the West Virginia Department of Highways (WVDOH), to determine if these roads remain part of the state’s public road system. It was discovered that some of these roads shown in red on the map are not public roads. A new map is being developed identifying the public roads which remain open to vehicle use under the authority of the WVDOH. Public roads will not be part of the proposed H-M Authority trail system.
4. Will a trail system managed by the H-M Authority restrict how or where I ride my ATV on East Lynn Lake?
Public roads will remain open to all vehicles and are subject to state motor vehicle operation laws. On trails developed and managed by the H-M Authority, riders would be subject to requirements that are deemed necessary to ensure public safety and environmental protection on the trail system. The restrictions for riding trials managed by the H-M Authority are found in West Virginia Code, Chapter 20, Article 14-8.
5. Can I access my family cemetery, or any cemetery on East Lynn Lake without being charged?
Yes, access to cemeteries is provided by the public road system which is under the authority of the WVDOH. Public roads would be clearly mapped/signed and would not be part of the H-M Authority trail system. No fees or permits are needed to use public roadways on East Lynn Lake property. The trail system developed by the H-M Authority would not be used for cemetery access.
6. Will there be any trails managed by the H-M Authority near family cemeteries on East Lynn Lake? If there would be, I won’t like the noise from all the riders, disturbing family services, etc.
All of the cemeteries at East Lynn Lake are currently accessible via the public road system, which are under the authority of the WVDOH and allow access via ATV, UTV, ORV and other full size vehicles. Many unauthorized trails spur off of the public roads near the location of the cemeteries. It is anticipated that the proposed plan by the H-M Authority will eliminate these unauthorized trails thereby lessening the riding near cemeteries. Although the Corps anticipates some degree of additional riders with a managed trail system, it also anticipates a reduction of ATV use on public roads due to the elimination of the unauthorized trails.
7. Would I be able to hike, bike, or ride horses on the WMA without being overrun with ATV’s?
The WMA is very large and there are areas of it that would not be suitable for the H-M Authority’s trail system. Hiking, biking and horseback riding would continue to take place in these areas. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are allowed on trails managed by the H-M Authority. This does not mean there is no risk associated with participation in these activities on the trails, however, all of these activities are currently taking place on the property together without the safety regulations and enforcement of the H-M Authority.
8. You’re taking away a family activity by bring in H-M Authority. There would be too many ATV’s on the property and the atmosphere would be entirely different.
There are many family activities currently available at East Lynn Lake. With the exception of the public road system, riding of ATVs, UTVs, and dirt bikes has never been an authorized family activity at East Lynn Lake. Riding on East Lynn Lake property off public roads is a violation of Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327.c, of the Code of Federal Regulations. Potential impacts to other existing family activities by the creation of a trail system managed by the H-M Authority at East Lynn Lake are currently being identified for further evaluation to determine possible effects.
9. Would there be any part of the WMA without trails managed by the H-M Authority?
Yes, trail locations are currently being assessed by the H-M Authority for the purpose of developing a proposed trail plan for evaluation by the Corps.
10. Can I hunt on the WMA after dark if the H-M Authority Trails are closed?
Yes, for species permissible by state game laws. However riding on a trail being managed by the H-M Authority is not permitted 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. Any hunting taking place outside of trail operating hours would require foot access only.
11. The safety of the public would be worse since there would be more ATV riders, legal and illegal, due to lack of law enforcement coverage.
Regulations for H-M Authority trails can be found in West Virginia code, Chapter 20, Article 14-8. Much of the code is geared toward the safety of riders. The H-M Authority would develop a plan for the enforcement of these safety codes on all trails in their system at East Lynn Lake. The H-M Authority would provide the resources needed to enforce their regulations and curtail the creation of unauthorized trails. Although the Corps anticipates an increase in use at East Lynn Lake if the Authority’s development plan is approved, the increased use would be managed and enforced to provide a safe riding environment while protecting the environment.
12. Why do we have to pay a fee to access public land?
The Federal Government purchased the land at East Lynn Lake for the purpose of providing a multipurpose facility with various authorized purposes. As the managing agency, the Corps is directed by Federal law to protect the environment by managing the natural, cultural, and recreational resources. The Corps partners with other agencies to assist with the management of these resources. Much like a license fee is required by WVDNR to hunt or fish at East Lynn Lake, a fee would also be required by the H-M Authority for public use of the developed trails if approved. These fees would be used to manage and maintain the trail system.
13. There would be more ATV use at East Lynn Lake with a developed trail system than there is now, which would create more littering, erosion, noise to WMA, and other recreation areas.
Current unauthorized vehicle use at East Lynn Lake has not been quantified. However, some increase in ridership resulting from the development of a managed trail system by the H-M Authority is anticipated. Current unauthorized vehicle use has historically generated unacceptable levels of littering, erosion, damage to waterways, noise, and other concerns. The H-M Authority’s proposal will be evaluated to determine whether allowing authorized ATV use, in a managed situation, will reduce these unwanted byproducts. The evaluation will focus on the extent to which the H-M Authority can reduce these undesired outcomes.
14. Would there be any roads open to vehicles at East Lynn Lake which are not part of H-M Authority’s trail system?
Existing public roads that are under the authority of the WVDOH would remain open to all types of vehicles. A new map of all those public roads at East Lynn Lake is being developed.