By Debra Thornblad
The Berlin Daily Sun
May 25, 2013
GORHAM – Gorham selectmen agreed Monday night
to schedule a public hearing to hear townspeoples’ views on allowing ATVs on
roads in the center of town. That is the next step to the state’s approval of
their use on Routes 2 and 16, which are state owned.
Earlier this year Chris Gamache, head of the state Bureau of Trails, attended a selectmen’s meeting to update the board on what is going on on the state level and in various other North Country towns.
That night he said a bill had been passed that would allow sections of state highways to be opened to OHRVs in Coos County only, which would permit ATVs on Routes 2 and 16 to be considered.
He said Gorham could be part of a loop that would eventually bring ATVs along trails that stretched from Gorham all the way up to Pittsburg.
At that January meeting, the main reason expressed that night in favor of allowing ATVs on the roads, and it would only be on the sections with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, is the business it would bring to Gorham businesses. Gamache pointed out Gorham has the services these tourists are looking for: restaurants, motels, gas stations, etc.
At that time a bill was before the legislature that would require ATV drivers to be licensed to drive, or be accompanied by a licensed driver who would take legal responsibility for the unlicensed driver, in order to travel on roads. That bill now sits on the governor’s desk to be signed.
One person at that earlier meeting said if Gorham doesn’t decide to allow them on the roads, the town will be missing out. Tourists will soon learn where they are welcome, and not welcome.
Henry Sanschagrin, from the Presidential OHRV Club, reiterated that feeling Monday night. “If Gorham doesn’t get on the ball right now, we’re going to lose it,” he said.
He noted House Bill 574, that called for the widening of pass through gates on the rail trail was passed and they have already been widened, from 59 to 67 inches.
Sanschagrin presented the board with a packet that included descriptions and maps of proposed trails through town. He said there would be some minor changes to one of the maps because in a couple of cases landowners had denied permission to cross their property, one of those being the U.S. Forest Service.
The package also noted the following information: the speed limit would be 30 mph through out all routes, ATVs would use the same lanes as any other motor vehicle, ATV trail signs would be similar to those used in Berlin, ATVs would use the same parking areas as other motor vehicles, 42 Gorham businesses have signed a petition in full support of allowing OHRVs in Gorham, 412 signatures were gathered at the 2012 Jericho ATV festival and other events and there will be no cost involved to the town.
Sanschagrin urged selectmen to schedule a public hearing as soon as possible. Following the public hearing, the proposal would go to the State Department of Transportation and Safety for its approval. He said they were hoping to have it all approved by mid-June, in time for this year’s summer season.
Selectman Bill Jackson said selectmen have been waiting to hear from the state, but Sanschagrin said the state wants to know if the town approves it before moving forward on allowing ATVs on Routes 2 and 16.
Selectman Paul Robitaille said if the state approves ATVs on state roads, then it would seem a moot point for the town, as the state owns Routes 2 and 16.
But Sanschagrin said the state wants the town’s support before proceeding. Selectmen then asked Town Manager Robin Frost to set up a public hearing.