Columbia Residents Gather to Provide Input to Opening 4 Roads to ATV's

Jake Mardin
Colebrook News and Sentinel

May 16, 2013

About 20 people filled a conference room at Columbia's town office on Wednesday night for a public meeting on allowing ATVs on selected town roads.

The roads up for discussion were 3.5 miles of Bungy Road from Kelsea Notch to Gray Road; one mile of Kelsea Notch Road from Nash Stream to Bungy Road; two miles of Gray Road from Bungy Road to Phil Monson's residence; and two miles of Sims Stream Road from Moren's Bridge to Route 3.

If approved, the roads would create a trail that would be part of a larger loop and would allow access to and from the North Country ATV Club trail system in Stratford. The trail would be a part of the 1,000-mile Ride the Wilds system of interconnected trails, slated for a grand opening on June 15.

Harry Brown and Craig Washburn of the Metallak ATV Club gave a PowerPoint presentation about the project. Mr. Brown said a federal-state land exchange that would allow ATVs to travel between Berlin and Errol is nearly complete, and issues in other towns where the trail will go through have been resolved. He said that in 2013, the club has secured an additional 37 landowner permits. Access to the Bungy area will be achieved from Diamond Peaks on a former snowmobile trail that was built as an ATV trail, according to Mr. Brown.

Resident Scott Stepanian said he supports North Country ATVing and believes the club was a great idea, but said he could not support ATVs on Kelsea Notch or Bungy Road. "This is going to adversely affect landowners who spent their hard-earned money to maintain the road," he said, explaining that Kelsea Notch Road is a Class 6 road.

He also said that there may be a time when new ATV trails will be allowed on Nash Stream property, and ATVs could reach Stratford that way. He also expressed concerns about safety and noise. When asked about liability, Mr. Brown said that if the roads are legally opened and signed, the town will be covered by a $2 million policy.

Coralie Stepanian asked about maintaining the roads, including Kelsea Notch. Mr. Washburn said the club would be willing to put gravel on parts of the road to maintain it.

Larry Dodge said the trail would pass 14 feet in front of his front porch on Kelsea Notch Road. He said that he is not overall in favor of the project, but he would not stand in the way of progress, and he would open up his property if it would move the trail from in front of his porch.

He also added that his place is situated at an intersection, so ATVs would be stopping and going. Mr. Washburn said he didn't think there would be a lot of traffic on the roads unless there is an event.

Selectman Don Campbell asked the townspeople for suggestions, and Mr. Dodge suggested riding from 8 a.m. to dusk. Selectman Eric Stohl said that if a road used for ATVs must to be repaired, people should contact the board.

Mr. Stohl said he would "hold his nose" and vote for opening the roads, but advised the club representatives that he would be one of its biggest critics. "If an ATVer is raising hell, there will be people who get a phone call," he said. He thanked those in attendance for their input, and said the decision will be made at a future date.



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