Ride-the-Wilds Phase I Trail Completion is Celebrated

By Donna Jordan
Colebrook Chronicle

August 29, 2014

NORTH STRATFORD — Yesterday morning a large contingent of ATV enthusiasts,selectmen, elected and hope-to-be-elected officials joined N.H Governor Maggie Hassan in completing phase one of the Ride the Wilds trail system.

Ride the Wilds in northern New Hamp shire is a public-private ATV trail that has become an important economic engine for the region. As part of the ceremony, Gov. Hassan also signed into law four Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle-related bills which had been sponsored by North Country Senator Jeff Woodburn. The bill signing and ribbon cutting took place at the North Country ATV Club’s pavilion near Burns Truck Stop in North Stratford.

One year ago was the grand opening of Ride the Wilds, however a significant portion of the trail system was not yet connected—the portion that connects from Colebrook and Columbia to Lancaster.

That portion has now been completed. Throughout the morning’s ceremony, every speaker felt it was important to honor the public-private partnership of the Ride the Wilds trail system, which was made possible through the agreement of numerous private landowners who allowed portions of their property to be used as part of the trail system.

Harry Brown, the president of the N.H. OHRV Coalition, introduced State Senator Jeff Woodburn of Coos County as one of the first speakers for yesterday’s ceremony. He recognized Woodburn for being instrumental in helping the coalition to navigate through creating ATV laws and the intricacies of creating the trail system.

“This is a great economic initiative,” said Woodburn. “It’s so easy to say no...it’s so easy to kill projects. This is something that is held together by a lot of people putting a lot of time and energy into it.”

Woodburn then introduced the Governor, who said right away that it was a great day to be in the North Country to celebrate not only the natural resources but also all the efforts being made to be sure that other people can come to the area to understand and appreciate those natural resources. “Tourism is our second largest industry in New Hampshire,” she said. “Visitors from around the world are attracted by what really is unmatched natural beauty up here. Exciting outdoor recreation activities have clearly developed a new one with Ride the Wilds. We have really taken it to a new level.”

The Governor commented that Ride the Wilds is an economic engine for the state—not just for the North Country. “It’s a boost for local businesses, it attracts new business, and it strengthens our entire travel and tourism economy,” she said.

A representative for U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen—Chuck Henderson—read a letter of congratulations from Shaheen. “Today’s ribbon cutting celebrates another important milestone for Ride the Wilds. New Hampshire’s North Country is becoming recognized as a world class destination for off-highway recreational vehicle riding, and these trails make that possible,” wrote Shaheen. “I would like to congratulate Harry Brown and members of the 16 clubs in the OHRV coalition, as well as the Bureau of Trails and the Dept. of Fish and Game for their work to make this possible. Together, we are thankful to the Coos County Commissioners, the County Delegation, other local officials and our public safety officers for their support and cooperation.”

Earl Sweeney, the Assistant Commissioner of Safety, said, “We spent a significant number of hours riding around every single section that asked to be open to be sure it was going to be as safe as possible.

This is a wonderful project for the North Country and are pleased we were able to answer the requests from the towns and town officials” to open portions of state roads to be used as trail connectors. “Now, we need to make sure the motorists don’t get too upset when they see an ATV going down one of those sections of road that have been opened. We’ve learned over the years that we share the roads with bicycles, with hikers, with heavy commercial vehicles, and now we’re going to be sharing with ATVs. I would urge that everybody use a lot of patience.”

Senator Andy Sanborn of Bedford also spoke about his support as a Senator and as an ATV enthusiast to see the trail system opened. He said that he and his wife call the North Country their second home, his appreciation to Harry Brown and to the landowners. “From those early meetings of trying to come up with this concept of how do we pull so many diverse groups together and do something that is meaningful for all of the residents of the North Country—this is proof today that there are times we cross swords, but we come together more often than not,” he said.

Dept. of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner Jeff Rose said, “When I think about this project and this initiative, it really touches the entire breadth of the agency that I have the privilege of serving. We have the travel and tourism, which as the Governor said is our second largest industry, and then we have the Forest and Lands, which is making sure this is done in an environmentally sensitive and responsible fashion and to make sure that what we are doing with the landowners to make sure that what we are doing is respectful.”

But then, he said, there is the economic development division, the parks and recreation division, Glenn Normandeau, Executive Director of the N.H. Fish and Game Dept. talked of how his department approached the whole concept of Ride the Wilds with a little bit of trepidation. “While we recognized the economic impact, we were concerned about our resources and enforcement—I do want to thank the Dept. of Safety, the state police, the local police departments, and the Coos County Sheriff’s Dept. have all been instrumental in helping us to do our enforcement effort which will hopefully keep the system safe.”

The four bills that Gov. Hassan signed into law were SB 230–relative to the definition of utility terrain vehicles; SB 231–relative to regulation of tractors and utility vehicles; SB 232–relative to speed limits for off highway recreational vehicles and snowmobiles; SB 240–relative to authorizing temporary registrations of off-highway recreational vehicles for nonresidents. Woodburn said that the four bills were part of a study committee that he chaired with four other legislators from southern New Hampshire. “We all came together on that first day and we said we were all going to agree on this legislation or we will not go forward with it,” he said. “Every single one of us did.”

Before signing the four new laws and cutting the ribbon, Harry Brown and Gov. Hassan recognized Ted Burns of the North Country ATV Club as having “shown the way” for the rest of New Hampshire. “Without his strong moral character, his unrelenting determination, his fortitude and his vision, we would not have Ride the Wilds, we would have ride to elsewhere” said Brown. Burns was presented with a book, Beyond the Notches, autographed by the Governor.

N.H. Governor Maggie Hassan cuts the ribbon at the parking area for the North Country ATV Club in
North Stratford, following a ceremony yesterday morning
marking the end of phase one of the 1,000 miles
of riding trails. Donna Jordan photo.

With State Senator Jeff Woodburn, at left, and Harry Brown, right, President of the North Country OHRV
club, watching, Governor Maggie Hassan signs four new OHRV bills into law. Woodburn was the sponsor
of the bills. Donna Jordan photo.

Gov. Maggie Hassan congratulates Stratford’s Ted Burns for all his
hard work on creating ATV trails in the North Country.
Donna Jordan photo.

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