The Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Citizens Committee met in Pittsburg on Saturday to discuss amendments to the 2007 Public Access and Recreation Management and Road Management Plan. The committee voted to accept changes for ATV riding on designated roads.
The 2007 plan allowed for the Department of Recreation and Economic Development to allow ATV use on designated portions of road. The amendment designates two routes on Headwaters property in the area of Cedar Stream and Halls Stream. Alternative routes across Magalloway, Buckhorn and Deadwater would be used if Cedar Stream is closed because of forest management operations, maintenance, no designated off-property connection, or safety concerns.
As part of the amended action, the trail will be open from sunrise to sunset beginning in May, consistent with road and regional trail network operating plans and gate openings. The trail will not be open past September 30 of each year.
At Saturday's meeting, New Hampshire Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache said the passage of Senate Bill 250 allowed some state highways to be opened as connector trails, and he is talking with Brian Schutt of the Department of Transportation to come up with signage plans. He also said the Department of Environmental Services approved the use of the road going to Murphy Dam and the base of the dam as an ATV trail, which could allow riders to travel from the Great North Woods Riders system through town and onto Cedar Stream Road.
Mr. Gamache said Clarksville would have to approve the use of ATVs on Cedar Stream Road before that can go forward. He also said a snowmobile trail that parallels Cedar Stream could be used, but it would require the use of additional DES property.
The committee voted to pass the revision, and DRED commissioner George Bald has to approve it and the information has to be sent to the landowners, who have 90 days to respond.
To get riders from the trail system into town, the Pittsburg selectmen have proposed allowing ATV travel on Back Lake Road from Moose Pond Road to the transfer station, as well as the town portion of Woodcock Drive. The issue was discussed in a public meeting at the town office on Monday afternoon. Selectman Steve Ellis explained that SB 250 allows ATVs on Back Lake Road from the transfer station to Route 3.
Marie Kirker, a resident of Woodcock Drive, told the board that she owns the actual portion of the road in front of her house, and said that there was no way for the town to have jurisdictional control over private property. An ATV rider herself, she said that in the past there have been problems with people parking at the end of the town portion, partying and leaving trash behind.
George Reno, another Woodcock Drive resident, said he is in favor of ATVs on the road. He presented a petition from people who own or rent property on Back Lake Road that support ATV travel.
Rick Dube of the Great North Woods Riders ATV Club also spoke in favor of the proposal. "If this town is going to survive, we're going to need to bring money in, he said. "We need to open our minds and think outside the box." He likened the situation to snowmobiles, and said that at first they were unwelcome but are now "a godsend."
Ms. Kirker point out that there is a trail going from Moose Pond Road up over Shatney Mountain and onto Cheese Factory Road, and asked why Back Lake Road must to be opened up if that trail exists. Mr. Dube said this option offers an easier way into town, gets people into and out of town more quickly, and would reduce the number of ATVs on Route 3. He also said Shatney Mountain is a rugged trail, and they have tried to find other routes to get into town but couldn't come up with anything.
Members of the public brought up safety issues, as well. Marcia Clifford read a letter signed by 34 residents expressing concern about opening up the road. She said many people brought property long ago and didn't expect ATVs to be going past them.
"We're concerned about the safety of everyone involved," she said. "I don't want to see a 14-year-old get killed on the road."
Specific concerns brought up were the hilly portions of the road, sharp corners and blind spots. Ms. Clifford also expressed dissatisfaction that residents haven't been kept in the loop regarding the situation, but the board said the information has been made public.
Law enforcement personnel also voiced concern about the proposal. "I'm on the record as being opposed to this," police chief Richard Lapoint said. "My stand is strictly based on safety." N.H. Fish & Game Conservation Officer and Pittsburg resident Christopher Egan said while there haven't been a lot of problems yet, an accident, "is going to happen."
Steve Kiley, owner of Powderhorn Lodge and Cabins on Beach Road, said ATVs can arrive and depart from the lodge, and his guests are enjoying it. He also said that with trails open and people staying there, he is better able to hire local help.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Ellis thanked the audience for their comments and said that the board will take the issue under advisement.