Connecticut's policy on ATV and dirt bikes using state forest and parklands was set up in 2002. It created requirements for people who want to set up off-road vehicle trails on state land, including environmental assessments and stiff requirements to avoid problems with endangered species and delicate water systems.
"There are safety issues and also environmental issues because [ATVs and dirt bikes] can damage our land," says DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain.
He says the state hasn't even gotten any requests under that policy plan.
Shinners disagrees. He says he's tried multiple times in the past 30 years to get the state to open some lands for dirt bike and ATV riding.
"The one proposal they looked at was shot down," he told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this year. "It was a flood control dam [area] protecting Stafford. No animal worries or endangered species. They shot it down because it would be wetlands."
"As far as I have seen, the state has not given one inch in trying to create trails," Shinners insisted. He says the idea of requiring all ATVs and dirt bikes to be registered and pay registration fees to the state won't cover the cost of maintaining trails. (According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, only 2,392 ATVs in Connecticut are registered with the state.)
"So many states have riding," complains Shinners, pointing to policies in New England states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
George Libby, whose family owns Libby's Motoworld in New Haven, says lots of Connecticut riders travel outside this state just to ride legally. "The state is losing hundreds of thousands of [tourism and equipment sales] dollars just because people don't have a place to ride," he insists. "The state is missing the boat."
Rep. Dillon, while pleased that cities and towns will be able to hit outlaw riders with higher fines ($1,000 for a first violation, $1,500 for a second, and $2,000 for a third and subsequent violations), doesn't think this is going to completely solve the problem.
She knows the fines are "only one tool in our tool kit" and that more needs to be done to control those outlaw riders.
Shinners isn't sure that any increase in fines will stop some off-roaders from riding where they shouldn't.
"If you ask me, they're going to continue to ride illegally no matter what you do," he says. "There will never be enough [penalties]; and they will never be enforced enough."