Colebrook News and Sentinel
Over 50 Colebrook residents, property owners and business people attending a public hearing Monday night to consider opening several streets and roads to ATV travel--including the entirety of Main Street indicated their favor in a straw poll vote of 52-1. The selectboard took the input under advisement and will make a final decision at its next meeting on June 9.
Colebrook selectmen Jules Kennett and Ray Gorman presided over the hearing, which was held at the Colebrook Elementary School cafeteria. The meeting concerned a list of streets and roads compiled and brought to the board by members of the Metallak ATV club for the board's and the public's consideration. After the pair of town fathers spent an hour listening to comments and questions from the assembly, the straw poll overwhelmingly indicated the public's favorable opinion.
Mr. Kennett began by explaining that the Colebrook roads and streets under consideration for ATV use had been selected by ATV club members. "They are the experts on this subject, not us," he said, reading the list aloud as the crowd followed along with written copies. Town roads under consideration are Roaring Brook, Harvey Swell, East Colebrook, Bear Rock, Bennett Hill, and Reed Road from the junction of Bear Rock and Cree roads to the junction of Forbes Hill and Ramsey roads.
State highways on the list for consideration are Diamond Pond Road from Heath Road to Route 26; Route 26 from Route 3 to the Mohawk Cabins; Route 3 from the Northern Outlet store on Main Street to Hughes Road and Route 26 (Bridge Street) in its entirety.
Mr. Kennett read a letter of support sent to the board by Northern Outlet owner Michael Bouchard. Wayne Frizzell, representing the North Country Chamber of Commerce, presented a petition which he said contained "about 70 signatures in favor of this action, and the Chamber favors the proposal as well."
Metallak ATV Club president Craig Washburn explained how and why these roads had been chosen for the proposal. "The roads in the Diamond Pond area were picked to spread traffic out and give riders an opportunity to buy local produce and goods," he said, "and the streets in town were chosen to give riders access to all the retailers and restaurants in the Main Street area."
Moose Muck Coffee House proprietor Carol Pires spoke to her opinion of the economic importance of allowing ATV traffic on Colebrook downtown streets saying, "If we turn this down, we're essentially telling ATV riders that we don't want their business, so as a business owner, I'm in favor." Corinne Rober of Bear Rock Adventures said, "We are all concerned with maintaining the integrity of the area, but ATV's can elevate property values and raise the standard of living all around."
North Country OHRV Coalition president Harry Brown of Stewartstown was asked to provide an overview of law enforcement concerns and told the assembly, "Fish and Game has more or less promised to assign two agents on weekends to help with enforcement issues, and the County Sherriff has indicated that a pair of officers will be available on weekends to help in unincorporated places. There are aggressive roles that you (the town) can play, and it's important that towns with police forces get involved in the enforcement effort."
Mr. Kennett noted, "If the volume of ATV traffic dramatically increases, we may have to bring the issue of increasing law enforcement personnel to the public at town meeting." Colebrook Downtown Development Association co-president John Strickland responded to this saying, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the volume of ATVs increased to such an extent that we had to increase law enforcement, because that would mean an equal increase in business volume."
Glenn Perry told the group, "We went through the same thing years ago with snowmachines, and that worked out just fine. I'm pretty tickled that we're thinking about doing this and I hope we can find ways for everyone to just get along."
Selectman Ray Gorman told the public, "We have a chance here to grow our community in multiple ways if we work together to make this happen in the proper way. I'm hoping everyone can be patient during the process and it's important that you talk to us when you have concerns."
Bob Lemieux, an OHRV dealer at Lemieux Garage told the crowd, "When the ATV trails opened, my summer business took off. Riders are always asking about places to eat breakfast and with Howard's closed, it would be a good thing to allow riders access to the Wilderness and Moose Muck. As far as local law enforcement goes, the police are always parked at the funeral home on weekends anyway, so there's your local enforcement."
Mr. Kennett said that the selectmen would be considering the list of roads and streets one by one, and would reach decisions on whether and where to allow ATV travel at their regular meeting on Monday, June 9.