All-terrain vehicle riding is not permitted in the Marietta district of the Wayne National Forest for good reason, according to Ryan Smith, member of the local River Valley Mountain Biking Association that helps build and maintain many area hiking and biking trails, including some in the Wayne.
"About 12 to 15 years ago the forest was pretty much overrun with ATVs," he said. "The vehicles may dig ruts that catch water and cause erosion of the hiking trails, which in turn causes siltation of area streams."
When building or maintaining a trail, Smith said the idea is to provide a certain gradient that's user-friendly for hikers or mountain bikers.
"In recent years, when building or rehabilitating a trail, we try to configure it to be more difficult for ATVs or other motorized vehicles to use the trail," Smith said.
Although he's not aware of any current issues with ATVs on Wayne National Forest trails in Washington County, he said trail damage from off-road vehicles can be costly.
"A properly-built hiking trail costs between $2 and $3 per lineal foot to construct," he said. "And ATVs can degrade a trail to the point it costs a lot more than that to rebuild."
Who can ride all-terrain vehicles in the Wayne National Forest designated trails:
Riders possessing a valid drivers license and a Wayne National Forest trail permit.
If the rider is under 16 years of age, he or she must be accompanied by a rider 18 years or older who possesses a valid drivers license and a Wayne NF trail permit.
Only ATVs 50 inches or less in width, and off-highway motorcycles with an Ohio All Purpose Vehicle (APV) registration (available from Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles) are allowed. Out-of-state riders are required to get a temporary Ohio APV tag.
All vehicles must have working brakes, an adequate muffler, and a spark arrestor; and if ridden at night, working lights on both the front and back.
For more information on ATV trails in the Wayne, call the Athens Ranger District at (740) 753-0101, or the Ironton Ranger District at (740) 534-6500.
Smith noted ATV riding is permitted in some areas of the Wayne, including at least one trail system in the Athens district.
That trail-the Monday Creek ATV Trail System, off U.S. 33 north of Nelsonville-includes 75 miles of trails that are generally available to ATVs as well as to hikers and mountain bikers.
But following widespread forest damage due to the June 29 storm, Wayne Forest Supervisor Anne Carey announced the Monday Creek trail would be closed until further notice.
"The Monday Creek system will be closed until it is safe for riders," Carey said in a recent news release.
The ATV trail, Leith Run Recreation Area, Wildcat Hollow Hiking Trail, and the Kinderhook Horse Trail were all closed due to storm damage.
"Areas will be reopened as soon as possible, once the (forest service) is confident they are safe for the public to visit," Carey added.
Other Wayne National Forest trails accessible for ATV riding in the Ironton district remain open, including the 26-mile Hanging Rock Trail System of U.S. 52 north of Ironton, and the 20-mile Pine Creek Trail System off Ohio 93 about 13 miles north of Ironton.