COOS COUNTY – Efforts to revitalize the economy in Coos County by promoting the region as a destination for ATV riders got a major boost with the announcement of a $152,492 federal grant to market the Ride the Wilds initiative. The grant, made possible by USDA Rural Development, will enable Northern Community Investment Corporation to help businesses and communities take advantage of recreational visitors using the Ride the Wilds ATV trail network.
"This is just a huge shot in the arm," said Harry Brown, president of the North Country OHRV Coalition. The coalition has spearheaded the development of the 1,000-mile ATV network in the county. "We are becoming the outdoor recreation Mecca of New Hampshire and probably New England," he said.
The grant more than triples the money available to promote Ride the Wilds and ATV riding in the county. Last year, the initiative received $15,000 from the county, which it was able to parlay into about $45,000 to $60,000 by leveraging it to attract other grants and state Joint Tourism Promotion funds. It also piggybacked on the New Hampshire Grand initiative where the trail system is listed as a grand adventure.
Brown said the funds will focus directly on promoting the Ride the Wilds initiative. Recipients are required to obtain matching funds and Brown said they would look to do that. He said the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail system in West Virginia is smaller than the Coos network with about 700 miles of trails but has a marketing budget of about $750,000. Brown said he hopes eventually the Ride the Wilds initiative can be self-sustaining and market itself as well as do cooperative marketing.
Brown gave credit for the grant to NCIC Vice President of Economic Development Cathy Conway who suggested the initiative apply for the grant and wrote the application. "NCIC got us the money," Brown said.
In addition to the trail network, many communities have opened their streets to ATV traffic, allowing ATV riders using the 1,000 miles of ATV trails access to food, gas and lodging services. The ATV traffic has been critical to the many small businesses in the area, and has even created new small businesses.
"The Ride the Wilds initiative is connecting more than trails, it is connecting visitors to our communities, to our businesses, and to our incredible natural assets," said USDA Rural Development New Hampshire and Vermont State Director Ted Brady. "By investing in New Hampshire's trails and the organizations that manage and promote them, we are also investing in the rural businesses that our small communities are built around and depend on."
The Ride the Wilds grant was one of 48 Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grants announced Thursday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Another New Hampshire organization, the Northern Forest Center of Concord, received $107,956 to provide workforce development and business training services to environmental tourism-dependent businesses in the Maine Woods region.
Map of the main corridor trails of the Ride the Wilds trail system