Officials: ATV riders, snowmobilers denied access to trails owned by Northern Pass opponents
September 29, 2015
The New Hampshire Union Leader

By: John Koziol
Union Leader Correspondent

LANCASTER — State officials say several North Country land owners who oppose the Northern Pass Transmission project have denied access to trails for both ATV riders and snowmobilers.

The denials, said Chris Gamache, who is chief supervisor of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, came after Harry Brown, who until recently was president of the North Country Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Coalition, had discussions with Eversource, the company that wants to bring Canadian hydroelectric power down a 190-mile route from Pittsburg to Deerfield.

Brown had spoken with Eversource in July about the possibility of the latter donating more than $5 million and some 1,100 acres of land in the Diamond Pond area of Stewartstown to Ride The Wilds.

Separately, Brown on behalf of Ride The Wilds — which comprises some 1,000 miles of interconnected OHRV trails in Coos County — applied for and received a grant through the Coos County Job Creation Association, which was founded by Eversource

Both those things, said Gamache, seemingly alienated not only property owners who oppose Northern Pass, but also Ride The Wilds’ board of directors. After Brown’s resignation earlier this month, the board voted to return the CCJCA money and to reaffirm the group’s “politically neutral” position.

On Ride The Wilds’ Facebook page, Richard Cotter, who is RTW’s vice president and acting president, said the coalition was reorganizing but he did not elaborate.

“Snowmobile wise, we’ve lost a main corridor trail from Vermont to Pittsburg and lost two other trails from Berlin to Groveton,” said Gamache, adding that a nearly-signed agreement for OHRV access also fell through.

Brown emailed the Union Leader a lengthy statement Monday that addressed his role with Ride The Wilds and Eversource as well as his critics. In it, he slammed the hypocrisy of some Northern Pass opponents who objected to what he and Ride The Wilds were doing, but had no qualms about taking Eversource’s money for conservation projects and a cell-phone improvement effort in the North Country.

Brown warned that Ride The Wilds “...is as delicate as a house of cards,” which is why it was incumbent for the coalition to explore all funding opportunities. As to the threats by some landowners to make their property unavailable for use by OHRV and snowmobile clubs, Brown wrote that their actions would only hurt their friends and neighbors.

Ride The Wilds, Brown said, needs “...large amounts of cash to purchase rights of ways similar to what the Appalachian Trail accomplished many years ago” to ensure that RTW remains viable for the long term. “A Northern Pass grant would have started us in that direction,” said Brown, but “without it, the future of the system is foggy at best.”

Gamache acknowledged that the Northern Pass is a “pretty heated, polarizing topic,” but said that despite the access denials, “This is not a ‘sky is falling” kind of thing.” Instead, he added, the current controversy represents both some growing pains for Ride The Wilds as well as an opportunity for the North Country Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Coalition to really examine its goals.

“The coalition was put together to market summer trails in Coos County and it was starting to get into the position of being a land owner and a land manager that it was never set up for,” Gamache said.

 

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