No machines allowed on rail trail

Snowmobile and ATV tracks are clearly visible at the Congamond Road Rail-to-Trail location despite a large sign indicating otherwise. (Photo Credit: The Westfield News/Frederick Gore)

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Users of the Rail Trail are being discouraged from using snowmobiles on the trail.

Police Chief David Ricardi said while it is not a huge problem, the department does respond to some calls about the sleds on the trail.

“People will call every now and then when they see them and we’ve been able to get out there and stop them,” he said, adding that most people are cooperative and move along.

Ricardi said the trail is not plowed and snowmobile drivers often use the trail as a short cut while out riding.

“But they’re really not supposed to be there – it is a walking trail,” said Ricardi.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Daniel Call said use of any motorized vehicle, including snowmobiles and ATVs, is prohibited on the Rail Trail.

“All four kiosks along the six mile trail have signs posted that no motors are allowed,” said Call, noting that security and maintenance vehicles only are allowed on the trail.

The problem with enforcement, he said, is that the town does not have a bylaw that specifically addresses the use of the trail at this time.

“It’s a federal guideline tied into the money used to build rail trails,” said Call. “It’s up to individual states to put forth laws that reflect the federal regulations and that hasn’t happened as it should.”

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. said there are state regulations surrounding the use of off road vehicles on the trails.

“There certainly are regulations that can be enforced if (drivers) in the wrong place,” Sullivan said, adding that “enforcement is done at the local level.”

Sullivan said the Massachusetts Environmental Police can also enforce the trails but there are not enough officers to go around to all areas.

Call said he has done some work toward establishing a local bylaw but he has not seen any push to move it forward quickly, although he does hope to have one in place in the near future.

“If the trail and shoulders were being torn up, I would see the need to do this ASAP, but that’s not happening now,” said Call. “It would be a different story if there was significant damage.”

A cross-country skier enjoys some sun and snow on the Rail Trail in Southwick. (Photo Credit: The Westfield News/Dan Call)
A cross-country skier enjoys some sun and snow on the Rail Trail in Southwick. (Photo Credit: The Westfield News/Dan Call)

Call said a motorized recreational vehicle would generally be used in a spot with more interesting terrain than a trail designed mainly for walking.

“I think for people with ATVs, it’s flat and that’s just not exciting so they don’t really use it.”

As far as snowmobiles, Call said they are on the trail on occasion but he agreed with Ricardi that they are often crossing it.

Call said while it is not a major problem at this time, both the Commission and police are monitoring the situation. Call did say cross country skis and snowshoes are welcome on the trail.

Media Credit: The Westfield News

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