GORHAM – For the second time town officials held a public hearing to hear arguments on both sides for opening up additional OHRV access for residential use only. The hearing centered on allowing access from Jimtown Roads and Cascade Heights and Flats.
Before the hearing began, Harry Brown, president of the North Country OHRV Coalition gave a presentation on 'Ride the Wilds' and the importance of stimulating the local economy through tourism. Ride the Wilds is a 1,000-mile interconnected ATV trail system across Coos County. Brown explained that the push for connector trails only started in 2011. The success of 'Ride the Wilds' can be credited to the 19 member clubs run by volunteer groups. This year, the clubs hope to add additional signs and maps at the 15 kiosks found throughout the trail system.
Ray Bergeron, owner of Northeast Snowmobile and ATV Rentals, suggested that signs could be posted along the trails saying 'Respect the neighborhood.' Proper signage would be used to deter riders from traveling to areas that were strictly residential with no outlet. Residents who opposed opening connecter trails cited concerns over increase in traffic, noise and overall safety. Although many agreed that ATV's were beneficial for economic reasons, it was made clear that they shouldn't be allowed in all areas.
Steve Emerson, a resident of Jimtown Road didn't see a problem with ATVs sharing the road with other motor vehicles. His concerns are about cyclists who travel in the breakdown lane, because vehicles have to maneuver around them. He felt that cyclists posed more danger to drivers than OHRV users. The sole purpose of opening up any of the proposed areas would be to allow residents who live in those areas to access the trails from their home. Many of the residents who own an OHRV say that they can see the trail from their house, but are unable to access it without trailering to the nearby parking area.
Resident Keith Roberge felt very strongly that riders will not want to access residential areas, because once they do there is no place to go. He explained that riders want to be out on the trails enjoying what they came for. He agreed that proper signage would go a long way to notify riders which areas they should not enter.
Selectmen Jeff Schall thanked those who came who came to the public hearing to share opinions and ideas. Further comments can be e-mailed to Town Manager Robin Frost at email@example.com or brought directly to the town hall. The board will review the comments made at the hearing, and any additional comments that come in. They hope to make a determination on opening access for Jimtown and Cascade by the next meeting on May 4.
Once a recommendation has been made the town will submit a proper proposal to the state for review. From that point the N.H. Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Trails will evaluate the proposed areas and make the final determination.