Frequently Asked Questions

Click the plus signs below to find detailed answers to each of the listed questions. Still have a question? Contact us and we’ll happy respond with an answer to your question.

ATV Riders. Please see DCNR Survey information request below.

The trail is privately owned and maintained, but open to the public for use in accordance with trail rules established by the trail’s owner, Allegheny Valley Land Trust, and the Redbank Valley Trails Association. The trail was conveyed to the owner by the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad and Shannon Transport on the condition that the trail be railbanked and maintained only for non-motorized use. Many complaints were received from nearby property owners from the noise, dust and erosion created by ATV trespassers on railroad and private property which led in part to the restrictions.

ATV use is not conducive to the safety of our ever-growing number of trail users because of the narrowness of the corridor, its passing through natural areas where quiet is so enjoyed by many users and in populated developed areas where pedestrian traffic is higher. ATV use is not compatible with the many young children on bicycles, runners and pedestrians who use the trail with its short sight distances and curves in the trail. Insurance costs and liability considerations also prohibit ATV and unauthorized motorized use.

Volunteers have spent many thousands of hours and worked hard to improve the nearly level trail with a smooth crushed limestone surface designed for bike, cross country skiing and pedestrian use. ATV tires rough up the surface which volunteers worked so hard to smooth and on which many private, donated and public dollars were expended to create that surface. Where ATVs go off the trail, surface drainage and erosion issues are created. Many cases of vandalism and destruction of gates, bollards and other improvements have been documented on camera by some ATV and other motorized users who do not respect private property rights at a great cost to RVTA. RVTA intends to continue to enforce the rules and prosecute vandalism and violators for the safety of its users.

DCNR provides funding for ATV trails just as it does for rails to trails. Railroad corridors that are to be inactivated can be found on a dedicated website. ATV users may wish to organize as others have done to create ATV and snowmobile trails such as those in Cook Forest, West Virginia, and in the Allegheny National Forest which has over 200 miles of ATV trails open to the public. DCNR representatives can provide guidance.

RVTA asks that ATV users respect the work of the volunteers, private property rights, established rules and the enjoyment of those who are using the trail as it was designed and intended.

DCNR survey seeking feedback from ATV enthusiasts across Pa.
In a bid to better gauge ATV use across Pennsylvania and plan for future riding opportunities in the state, DCNR is seeking participation of riders and owners in an online survey.

“DCNR is working on a study to analyze existing ATV trails and parks in Pennsylvania, as well as explore possibilities for establishing additional riding areas,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said this week. “The survey is designed to help create a statewide inventory of ATV riding opportunities on public and private lands. Also, we are researching opportunities to partner with local governments, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations to create and develop new ATV parks, trails, and facilities to meet the needs of ATV owners.”

DCNR officials first announced this forthcoming survey in early June when they joined representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection in announcing the reopening of the Whiskey Springs ATV Trail. The popular public ATV trail, threading through Sproul State Forest near Westport, Clinton County, is heavily used by ATV riders.

DCNR records as of Aug. 1 show more than 168,680 registered ATV owners ride on private land and approved state forest trails.

“We want to explore avenues of meeting these registered owners’ need,” Dunn said. “To do that effectively, we need to better understand the wants and needs of the ATV user. We also ask riders to spread the word to fellow ATV enthusiasts—we want as much survey input as possible.”

The survey will remain active through Sept. 15.

The study is being completed by Moshier Studio and Pashek Associates. Questions may be directed to John Buerkle at [email protected].

 

Erin Wiley Moyers | Regional Advisor

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Bureau of Recreation and Conservation

Northwest Regional Office

158 South Second Avenue

Clarion, PA 16214-2404

Phone: 814-226-2329|Fax: 814-226-1704

www.dcnr.state.pa.us/brc/index.htm

– Become a member – receive notices of meetings, events and activities. Annual membership fees help us maintain the trail.

– Pick up litter, clean out ditches to keep water flowing into drains, work on maintenance, help cut back brush, mow grass along the sides of the trail.

– Report maintenance problems or vandalism

– Participate in clean up days, fundraising and other events

– Organize a group for a project

– Adopt a mile or segment

– Suggest improvements

– Donate funds for improvements and maintenance

– Include your name on our list of volunteers to remove fallen trees and help with maintenance.

Groups wishing to hold an event on the trail should first check the calendar and then contact the Board of Directors to check for conflicting events, uses or work in progress that may interfere with planned activities. Groups wishing to hold an event must complete a registration form  provide a certificate of insurance to RVTA naming AVLT and RVTA as additional insureds.

Group leaders must coordinate police or traffic safety and familiarize themselves and event participants with trail conditions and rules. Use of the trail is not exclusive to event participants. Group leaders are responsible for clearing trail hazards and for removing all trash, markers or other items used during the event.

Rail banking is a federal law that allows inactive rail corridors to be maintained as a continual corridor for interim trail use. Should rail service wish to reactivate, the corridor will have been maintained.

SHORT OVERVIEW OF RAILS-TO-TRAILS LAW

Rail corridor ownership tends to be a mixture of various types of title to land. Railroads acquired property and built transportation systems in an evolving fashion that was dependent on the attitude of the surrounding property owners, as influenced by their economic interests. The Redbank Valley rail corridor is typical of corridor titles in Western Pennsylvania. Much of the corridor consists of fee simple ownership, but significant portions are fee simple determinable (easements) or a base or conditional fee.
Under long established property law principles, abandonment of the rail purpose resulted in a reversion of the non-fee simple portions of a corridor. Easements revert to the adjacent owners. Other less than fee simple interests, such as those acquired through condemnation, revert to the successor of the original owner.
It is important to understand that abandonment of rail ownership or use is a factual question of intent and the mere abandonment of service, and even the removal of ties and rails, is not conclusive evidence of a railroad’s intent to abandon its property interest. Many people confuse this type of factual abandonment, causing a reversion, with the service abandonment which occurs before the Surface Transportation Board.
Faced with the permanent loss of significant portions of our nation’s rail corridor system, and mindful of the increased demand for recreational trails, Congress passed amendments to the National Trails Systems Act in 1983 and created the rail banking concept.
16 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1247 (d) of the National Trails System Act allowed a government entity, or a qualified organization, to request rail banking as part of the federal process that occurs when service abandonment is approved. This law declared rail banking is a type of railroad use and would not trigger reversion of non-fee simple portions of corridors, thereby preserving the corridor. That section reads in its entirety as follows:
The Secretary of Transportation, the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, and the Secretary of the Interior, in administering the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 [45 U.S.C.A. Sec. 801 et seq.], shall encourage State and local agencies and private interests to establish appropriate trails using the provisions of such programs. Consistent with the purposes of that Act, and in furtherance of the national policy to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation of rail service, to protect rail transportation corridors, and to encourage energy efficient transportation use, in the case of interim use of any established railroad rights-of-way pursuant to donation, transfer, lease, sale, or otherwise in a manner consistent with this chapter, if such interim use is subject to restoration or reconstruction for railroad purposes, such interim use shall not be treated, for purposes of any law or rule of law, as an abandonment of the use of such rights-of-way for railroad purposes. If a State, political subdivision, or qualified private organization is prepared to assume full responsibility for management of such rights-of-way for management of such rights-of-way and for any legal liability arising out of such transfer or use, and for the payment of any and all taxes that may be levied or assessed against such right-of-way, then the Board shall impose such terms and conditions as a requirement of any transfer or conveyance for interim use in a manner consistent with this chapter, and shall not permit abandonment or discontinuance inconsistent or disruptive of such use. (Emphasis added.)
In 1990, Pennsylvania passed the Rails to Trails Act which recognized the power of the state to participate in rail banking at 32 PS § 5611 et seq.
DUTIES AND RIGHTS OF A QUALIFIED ORGANIZATION

By rail banking a rail corridor, the organization undertakes an affirmative duty to preserve the corridor intact. Illig v. U.S., 58 Fed. Cl. 619 (2003) states a trail sponsor must have the same control over the entire right-of-way corridor that would be held by a railroad in order that the trail sponsor can ensure that any and all uses made of the right-of-way are consistent with the restoration of rail service. Illig also finds that an easement for trail purposes carries with it a right of exclusivity of use.
A qualified organization must also make interim use “consistent with this chapter” 16 U.S. Code Sec. 1247 (d). Consistent with this chapter refers to the uses contemplated by the National Trails Act and as outlined at 16 U.S. Code Sec. 1246 (j).
The Pennsylvania Act echoes this intent by making it clear that government agencies and entities holding title to rail/trail corridors cannot create, or grant, easements or right-of-way that interfere with the recreational and preservational purposes of the Act, 32 P.S. Section 5614.
The PA Supreme Court in Buffalo Township v. Jones, 571 Pa. 637, 813 A.2d 659 (2002), held that a railroad’s transfer of a railroad right-of-way to a qualified entity dedicated to preserving the right of-way under the National Act prohibits a reversion of the property to the servient land owners.
A recent case in the Court of Common Pleas in Clarion County, said:
“The United States Federal Court of Appeals addressed the requirements of Section 1247 stating, ‘[t]he Trails Act and its implementing regulations require trail sponsors to assume ‘full responsibility’ for managing the right-of-way and for any legal liability arising out of the right-of-way. As part of this responsibility, a trail sponsor must also make assurances that the right-of-way is kept available for ‘future reconstruction and reactivation for rail service.’ In order to meet these requirements, we believe the Trails Act and its implementing regulations require that a trail sponsor must have the same control over the entire right-of-way corridor that would be held by a railroad in order that the trail sponsor can ensure that any and all uses made of the right-of-way are consistent with the restoration of rail service.”

Japanese or Giant Knotweed is an invasive plant that we hope to eliminate and control because it destroys other native vegetation, closes in the trail and causes erosion.  Please see the fact sheet for more information. Japanese Knotweed fact sheet