STARK — The majority of those who
attended the two-plus-hour-long public selectmen’s hearing on the Milan Trail
Huggers ATV Club’s proposal to use 10 miles of town roads on the north side of
Route 110 to locate a through east-west corridor to connect Groveton to Dummer-Milan
raised their hands to indicate they were in favor of the club’s plan.
Harry Brown of Stewartstown, president of the North Country OHRV (NHOHRV) Coalition that has promoted the 1,000-mile “Ride the Wilds” interconnected trail in Coös County as an economic stimulus, explained that much of the entire “trail” is on town roads and logging roads. Brown looks forward to the day that many more riders take three-, four, and five-day through trips, freed from the need to trailer their ATVs or side-by-sides once they’ve parked in Coös County.
Brown reported that at least three OHRV-related businesses have doubled in size; the number of rental ATV businesses has grown from three to eight; and OHRV registrations have risen from 18,000 in 2009 to over 26,000 in 2014, increasing total fees by some $300,000. “One area hotel-motel has had a bottom-line increase of over $300,000, likely saving it from having to close down,” Brown said. The Stark Village Inn is located directly on the proposed corridor route and a proposed local campground would also be right on the trail.
Education, including OHRV classes, an active trail patrol, appropriate trail signs, and law enforcement — local, Forest and Lands rangers, Fish and Game, Border Patrol, State Police and Coös Sheriff’s Department deputies are all key to a successful program that keep townspeople, other tourists, and landowners happy. Challenges in Stark include sufficient signs designed to clearly tell tourists where they can ride — and where they cannot — and where they can park for the short-and-long-term — and where they cannot.
“Give us a chance,” said Trail Master Larry Gomes of the Milan Trail Huggers. “Call us when and if there is a problem.” Club president Mike Vien (email@example.com) of the Milan Luncheonette (449-6726) also has a cell phone: 915-3212. Gomes’ cell phone is 508-561-6398 and email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brown noted that trail work at the western end of the proposed corridor still remains to be done in Groveton, including a section near the Groveton Trailblazer's clubhouse and a 24-hour credit card gas station, located on Northside Road.
Several Stark residents raised concerns at the hearing. Former selectman Everett Frizzell said he is not convinced that the pluses of having ATVs on town roads would outweigh the negatives, including increased trash and litter. Fish and Game Lt. Wayne Saunders, who lives in Stark, said that he understands that the North Country’s economy is dying but that he enjoys the peace and quiet of the roads in a residential community. “I’m all for trails in the forest,” he said.
Roger Caron said he’s concerned about the noise that unfettered night riding would bring and urged that the selectmen to adopt hours of operation that would protect the town’s tranquility. Other speakers pointed out that modern-day four-stroke snowmobiles are far quieter than in the past, and that ear-splitting night riding has greatly declined.
“We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain,” said Irving Boudle who lives on Stark’s Northside Road. Constable and town moderator Bill Joyce said he is concerned about how much local law enforcement would be necessary to monitor ATVing on town roads.
The following evening at its regularly scheduled bi-weekly meeting, the Stark selectmen voted unanimously on May 6 to adopt a new ordinance to open town roads for a “Ride the Wilds” connector corridor from Groveton to Dummer-West Milan with a number of restrictions as well as a second ordinance to allow taxpayers to go on town roads north of Route 110 from their properties to the nearest ATV trailhead.
The selectmen took into account the comments of Stark residents at the previous evening’s public hearing. Selectman Lisa Demers was particularly concerned about the ability of 14- and 15-year-old ATV drivers and the selectmen-adopted ordinance calls for those 16 and older to have either a driver’s license or an ATV certification.
Chairman Albert Cloutier Jr. explained that he had met earlier that day with District 1 state Trails Bureau chief Clint Savage of Gorham to ensure that the Stark was tapping the state’s perspective and experience and in compliance with state law.
The selectmen imposed certain restrictions ATV use of town roads: travel speed of 20 mph; drivers must be 16 or older and hold either a license or ATV certificate; hours of operation half-hour before sunrise to half-hour after sunset; and May 23 to Nov. 1, when appropriate signage has been put in place by the Milan Trail Huggers ATV Club. The Club will be expected to mark each “feeder” town road on which taxpayers can ride to the nearest trail head as a “Dead End.”
After the Stark selectmen held a public
hearing in the firehouse on May 5, the board voted unanimously the next evening
to approve an ordinance, valid in 2015,
to open 10 miles of town roads to ATV use to create a 19-mile “Ride the Wilds” Groveton to Dummer-Milan east-west corridor as proposed by the Milan Trail Huggers club.
This town-road trail will only be open to ATVs drivers age 16 and over with a driver’s license or OHRV certification from 1/2-hour before sunrise to
1/2-hour after sunset from May 23 to Nov. 1. This year, however, the new trail will not be open until the Milan Trail Huggers have all needed signs in place.