Sep. 17—KEYSER, W.Va. — A Mineral County official said Tuesday that prompt deployment of all-terrain vehicles is needed at the Dolly Sods Wilderness area to aid ill or injured hikers.
Recently, officials from Grant, Randolph and Tucker counties sent requests to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to seek permission to use ATVs to access and remove sick and injured hikers at Dolly Sods.
The 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness is located in the Monongahela National Forest.
The Mineral County Commission has expressed interest in supporting the effort; however, officials were informed that ATVs were already permitted in emergencies.
County Commissioner Roger Leatherman said the problem is that a federal ranger must be present to authorize ATV use and they are not always available.
"I talked to Scott Miley, he is a Grant County commissioner, about EMS going in on national ground," said Leatherman. "Yes, they can go in on national grounds if they have permission from the rangers with them.
"The problem is, they are not supposed to go in unless they have that permission. Most of these events happen on weekends or in the night when they don't come back to their camp sites. They can't get a hold of rangers."
Leatherman said Grant County officials would like to meet with federal representatives to discuss options.
"They want to set up a meeting with the rangers or with somebody so we can get other people involved like 911 coordinators where they can give permission," said Leatherman. "We don't want everybody in on it but we need someone."
Hikers and campers enjoy pristine wilderness at Dolly Sods but must traverse miles of remote paths, rock inclines and creek crossings to experience the area's natural beauty.
Leatherman said a letter to Manchin should focus on allowing someone other than rangers to permit emergency ATV use.
"When it comes to that letter, I would suggest getting 911 permission, to get the firefighters and EMTs in on ATV, without the consent of the ranger over that," said Leatherman.
Although Dolly Sods is not in Mineral County, Leatherman said some of the county's first responders assist in rescues there.
The counties aren't asking to widen trails or paths or to purchase additional ATVs, just permission to use the vehicles owned by rescue companies or on loan from private owners.
Without ATV access, first responders have to carry out the injured, according to Mineral County officials.
Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.