ATVs are immensely popular but training programs and facilities are hard to find. Learn about an opportunity right in our backyard.

ATVs are immensely popular but training programs and facilities are hard to find. Learn about an opportunity right in our backyard.


LACKAWAXEN TWP. - To learn about safely riding ATVs and side-by-sides, several families were at the ATV Training Center in the Masthope Community a few weeks ago. 

Sheldon Langer, a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources certified ATV safety instructor started riding quads nearly 30 years ago, before there were safety classes and instructors. Langer, who is the only certified instructor in Pike County has been teaching courses for eight years. If a rider is certified, since the course is through the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), they are then able to ride on designated ATV trails in state forest lands.

Also, vehicles must be registered and insured. To register an ATV or side-by-side contact 717-783-9227. ATVs and side-by-sides can be insured by vehicle insurance companies. The designated ATV trails are open Memorial Day weekend through the last full weekend in September, which will be September 24 this year. Riders must also follow all other all-terrain vehicle laws.

Since Langer is the only instructor in Pike County, if someone were to contact DCNR they would be directed to him. And so, because there are over 600 quads registered in the Masthope Community alone, an ATV Safety Training Course was built earlier this summer.

For 10 years, Langer said he has wanted a training center, and now with the center set in the community people no longer have to travel 35 miles away from Masthope. The center is open to non-Masthope residents too. Multiple times a year, there are classes where people can learn about throttle control, speed, control of the ATV and more.

One of the recent groups, Langer said started a “little shaky,” but after the class they were “one with their machine” as they had fun. 

To drive a quad in Pennsylvania, children ages 8 to 16 must take the safety course and be supervised; but in Masthope children must be 10-years-old, supervised and also take the course. It is only in Masthope, Langer said that people are able to ride quads on the road but the rules are “very stringent.” 

The lesson is four and a half hours, where Langer talks to the students and then, he watches and instructs the riders as they try making their way around a course. When riding, it is then that Langer is able to communicate with the riders. 

Driving a quad, Langer said is possibly more “dangerous” than a car, because they are light in the front. Also, since in Masthope people are able to ride on the roads, this is a challenge because the quads aren’t designed for riding on them. Quads are meant to be ridden off road. There are some quads, capable of going 40 to 50 miles an hour and they are basically like small cars. In the Masthope Community, the speed limit is 25 miles per hour, which is enforced.    

As an instructor, Langer said he enjoys watching the children’s skills improve and learn how to be safer. From the start of a lesson, the students’ improvement is evident as some learn how to better manage the machine.

During the recent lesson, Langer told his students to watch him as he demonstrated how to ride over obstacles because when riding in the woods, they shouldn’t jump over items, but rather have a “smooth ride” so they do not lose control.

John Granada wanted his 12-year-old son Ike to take the course, he said because he could always learn more about safety. While he was familiar with a lot of what Langer spoke about, Ike said he did learn about the signals which are used since quads don’t have blinkers. 

Paul Purcell bought a home in the community with his wife Catrina and their children, partially because of the allowance of quads, he said. Quads aren’t allowed where the family lives in New Jersey. The approval of the quads is “wonderful,” he said, since families are able to travel around the community that has a lake, market, restaurant and more. His son, who is 10, actually enjoys driving his mother to the market. Catrina sees their son’s time driving the quad as practice for when he will someday drive a car since it is experience.
The course, Paul said is recommended, but if anyone 16 and younger wants to drive themselves, they must take the course. The course though, gave the parents a “peace of mind.” Before his son took the course, Paul figured the lesson would teach him to “respect the rules of the machine.”

Paul said the way the children had to navigate the course while others were also riding, was practical since they were unable to predict what the other riders were going to do, so they had to be conscious of the other riders. 

Another father said his children were excited to ride throughout the community. Langer though, he felt did a “phenomenal job” as he patiently taught the children the basics of safety which he believes would help the children when they one day will drive vehicles. In the matter of four hours, the father said he saw his children’s driving improve as they were steering with their body and positioning their body as they made turns.

Frank Catalanotto was at the center with his 11-year-old daughter Karson who was working to improve her skills of driving a side-by-side. The father of four girls, said they all want to ride quads and side-by-sides in the community, so he saw the course as a chance for his daughters to learn what to do when on the trails and streets. A month before the most recent course, one of his daughters learned the rules from Langer at the center and another will learn at some point.   

Since Catalanotto didn’t grow up riding quads, he said having his children take the course gave him a sense of comfort since they would be riding on trails and roads. The one daughter who had already taken the course, Catalanotto saw a “big improvement” in her driving as well as new confidence as she has a better understanding of maneuvering the vehicle.  

Olivia Strout who is 13, said she learned that riders must be “mindful” of others when riding since they may be in close proximity as they ride.  

Before taking the course, Emma Fields said she did not know how to do jumps, but afterwards she knew how to do “good jumps.” As well, she learned how to ride through the figure eight, which was kind of challenging.

At this time, there are no more courses scheduled in the near future. But, for more information Chris Firestone at the DCNR in Harrisburg can be contacted at 570-724-8149 or www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/atv.