Town officials, business owners and local ATV enthusiasts gathered at the Colebrook selectmen's meeting on Wednesday evening, October 10 to discuss where and how ATVs may be able to travel in downtown Colebrook. Harry Brown, trail administrator for the Metallak ATV Club, provided an update on trail development using a PowerPoint presentation. The goal is to have a connector trail that leads from Success to Pittsburg, then to Colebrook and Stratford, and back to Success. "It's about a week's trip," he said.
The club has over 200 active members and has raised over $100,000 for trail construction, with $20,000 coming from local support, $20,000 from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund and other funding from grants. He said there are a few gaps to be addressed, such as a land swap being worked out between the state and US. Fish & Wildlife in Errol on the east side of Route 16. At a Coös County commissioners' meeting earlier that day, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge manager Paul Casey reported that the proposed agreement is now under review by the two parties' legal departments.
In Clarksville, a decision has not yet been made on allowing ATVs to ride on Cedar Stream Road. Mr. Brown said there is a way to get around it, but it would require DES approval. In Pittsburg, travel on Halls Stream Road and Indian Stream Road has likewise not yet been approved, and Canaan decisions are still pending as well. Mr. Brown said the rails have been removed from the rail line between Colebrook and Beecher Falls; that trail will be open for snowmobiling this winter and will be ready for next year's ATV season.
A new thought, he said, would be to create an interconnecting trail between Colebrook, Columbia, Dixville and Stewartstown, regardless of what the other towns do. He noted that the gaps in those potential trails are access to roads and private land.
The discussion turned to Colebrook and ideas on how to provide ATVers with access to downtown and nearby businesses. Cpl. David Radun, representing the Colebrook Police Department, said the chief supports having trails downtown, and related that no major issues have arisen in the winter when snowmobiles are on the sidewalks. He said the department would work with N.H. Fish & Game and talk to Pittsburg about how things have gone since that town began to allow ATVs in the village.
Town manager Becky Merrow said the town would have to identify roads they don't have jurisdiction over and submit an application to the state. She said that they would have to know all the roads and crossings being used so that maps can be published in January or February. She also noted that the Tillotson Center has approved the use of ATVs on its property. Selectman Jules Kennett expressed concern about the potential loss of parking spaces to ATV crossings. "I don't want to see us hurting businesses by [attempting to] help businesses," he said.
Road agent Kevin McKinnon said he is in favor of ATV use, but did express some concerns about safety, citing the S-curve on Monadnock Street as a potential trouble spot. Selectman Bob Holt asked about signage, and Mr. Brown said there would be speed limit signs and legal access signs. He suggested that the town look into signs that indicate which roads and streets have ATV traffic.
Mr. Kennett related his discussions with various business owners about developing staging areas, where ATVs could park within walking distance of downtown. He said some potential locations included the Dancing Bear, Colebrook Country Club, Northern Outlet of New England, the old Rite Aid building, and the industrial park. "We would be surrounded by parking," he said. He also suggested that vacant lot of the former elementary school would make a good parking spot.
Ms. Merrow said a map the town has been using to sketch out the possible routes did not include any ATV traffic on Main Street. "We avoided that and [focused on] crossings and staging areas," she said, citing safety concerns. John Strickland of Aime's Card & Gift noted, "I don't think you need to get [ATVs] to every point, just the key ones." The group discussed the option of routing ATV traffic coming from the rail-trail north of town over Beaver Brook and through the road to JK Lynch, which could bring travelers to places like the Dancing Bear Pub and Lemieux Garage.
At Clay Hinds' suggestion, a committee was formed to work on these issues further, consisting of Mr. Hinds, Roland Cotnoir, Bobby Lemieux, Kevin McKinnon, Jules Kennett and Angela Andolina. Mr. Brown suggested that Metallak ATV Club president Craig Washburn also serve on the committee.