Snirt Run canceled; Stinson blames Lewis County; county officials miffed

By Christina Scanlon, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 14--BARNES CORNERS -- The organizer of the popular Snirt Run has called off this year's event, blaming requirements imposed by Lewis County legislators.

"It's because of the interference of Lewis County and the demands they are making," Gary R. Stinson, president of the Barnes Corners Sno-Pals snowmobile club and organizer of the annual ATV poker run, said Thursday morning in a phone call during which he announced the cancellation.

The requirements, which included obtaining adequate insurance, updated maps, improved signs and barricades, were deemed mandatory in a resolution last month by legislators. Until those conditions were met, county roads would not be opened to all-terrain vehicles for the one-day event, which was set for April 12.

Mr. Stinson said he has obtained a rider on his club's insurance policy to cover the event and was working with Jacqueline L. Mahoney, Lewis County recreational trails coordinator, to create maps.

"Everything that was requested was only going to make this a better, safer event," Mrs. Mahoney said.

Mr. Stinson met Wednesday with legislators and the Lewis County Sheriff's Department to iron out logistics of barricades, signs and volunteer coverage.

Based on the conversations of that meeting, Economic Development Committee Chairman Lawrence L. Dolhof, R-Lyons Falls, said he thought the event would continue.

"I am totally shocked at this latest position because everyone is in total support of having the Snirt Run," he said.

"We've made no unreasonable demands," he said. "As of the meeting yesterday, everyone thought it was a go and we had a workable agreement."

Though requirements of the resolution appeared to have been nearly met, Mr. Stinson said he was opposed to one request, which asked his club to conduct a final sweep of the route at about 8 or 9 p.m. The sweep was proposed to avoid problems that occurred last year, when ATV operators became stranded in snow, calling 911 late into the night for assistance.

"There could be people there at 10, 11 or 12," he said. "Why do I have to assume liability for someone on the trail at 2 a.m.? My event ends at 6 o'clock."

Legislator Bryan D. Moser, R-Kirschnerville, disagreed with Mr. Stinson's contention that the county put up too many obstacles for the event to continue.

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"We are in no way trying to micromanage. We made some suggestions," Mr. Moser said, noting the legislators were not the only ones offering ideas for improvement. "The business owners gave suggestions, too."

Ultimately, he said, the problem lies with Mr. Stinson's attempting to run his event as it was done 10 years ago, despite that it has grown from 300 participants to more than 3,000.

Before making his final decision to cancel the run, Mr. Stinson called the print shop were he had placed a $15,000 order for T-shirts for the event.

After learning the T-shirts had not been printed, he decided to go ahead with the cancellation.

Heather L. Houppert, who owns the Ridgeview Inn in Lowville with her husband, Michael, was disappointed to learn of the cancellation.

"It's huge. I don't know what to say," she said. "This event keeps us rolling. April is a down month in this industry. The Snirt Run always helps with the financial strain in April."

Mr. Houppert had volunteered to barricade fields off Bardo Road where problems arose last year from ATV operators' crossing staked lines.

"I thought he had met every condition and was in compliance," Mrs. Mahoney said after learning Mr. Stinson had canceled the event. "I don't know where this is coming from."


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