JEFFERSON — Within 90 minutes of convening a Sunday evening meeting of ATV enthusiasts, the 24 people on hand voted unanimously to form the Jefferson OHRV Club.
Many of those present, at what was expected merely to be an exploratory meeting, are members of the Waumbek Methna Snowmobile Club in whose clubhouse the meeting was held, but the two clubs, both designed for recreational activities, will remain separate organizations.
The enthusiasts also included some volunteer OHRV advisors, including Henry Sanschagrin, president of the Presidential OHRV Club in Gorham, and Stephen Clorite, active in the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club in Berlin and owner of the Jericho Gateway Family Campground where over time he hopes to develop some 30 cabins and 200 camp sites.
Those most familiar with town’s on-the-ground conditions explained that the Waumbek Methna’s snowmobile trails on the west end of town, that run along the Portland Pipe Line, are too wet for ATV use. That route also crosses the Waumbek Golf Course, once part of a hotel complex.
Everyone agreed, therefore, that the only viable location for an OHRV trail to connect to Gorham and the Jericho Forest State Park in Berlin would be on the state-owned Presidential Rail Trail that runs through Randolph, formerly the Boston & Maine RR. The ties and rails have been removed and it is open to snowmobiling and other OHRV use in the winter.
Long-time trailmaster Maurice Dubois said that its use would require that a new 67-inch-wide, 110-foot long bridge supported by three-foot steel I-beams, replacing the swinging bridge over the Israel’s River. “This would be a major project,” Dubois said.
Experienced club members from other towns explained that Grant-in-Aid funds, Tillotson Fund grants, and ATV manufacturers could well be available, as well as eager volunteers with construction skills.
Local businesses, including campgrounds, cabins, and other attractions, are eager to open up access to ATVs, which is a fast-growing recreational activity that attract upper-income enthusiasts.
A slate of officers was elected, one by one, by unanimous vote: president Roy Parkhust of Pelham, an automotive collision technology instructor at Greater Lowell Technical High School in Tyngsboro, Mass. who owns a camp on Turnpike Road; vice president Gil Finch of Jefferson; secretary, Pam Couture of Jefferson; treasurer, Meredith Robinson of Lancaster; and trail administrator Lisa Couture Snowman of Jefferson, who has stepped back at the Kilkenny Trail Riders Club which she helped found.
The four-man slate of Directors was also approved unanimously: Maurice Dubois, Bruce Cameron, Les Hilton and Ron Medeiros.
The officers and Directors will hold their first meeting at noon on Sunday, July 12, in the same clubhouse, to begin to address such issues as adopting bylaws, registering with the state, setting a dues schedule, and starting to work with both state Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache and Clint Savage, who works for the Bureau of Trails in District 1, on how to request summer OHRV access to the Presidential Rail Trail in Jefferson and Randolph, plus the west end of Gorham where it goes under Route 2.
On June 15, Snowman went to before the Jefferson selectmen to tell them that several people had asked her if she would be willing to start an ATV club. She said, according to the minutes, however, that before moving forward she wanted to know if the three-man board would support one. Selectman Kevin Meehan said that he would support a club because it would help the local economy.
Selectman Tom Brady reported that at the camping shows he’d attended this spring to promote the family-owned Fort Jefferson Campground, potential customers had asked about ATV trail availability.
Snowman told the selectman that the club would have to get landowner permission, which has been a major problem in Lancaster, as well as state approval to cross state roads such as Routes 2, 115, 116 and other roads. “ATV riders want trails to ride on not Town roads,” she said.
“The big picture is to be able to connect with Lancaster and Gorham to complete a loop.” Chairman Norman Brown said that the Board is not opposed, but would need to know more specifics.
“Like with anything,” he said, “there are going to be some people for and some against. A public hearing would have to be held to get input from all sides.”
Brown asked Snowman to keep the board informed as to what is taking place.