Governor Takes Ride in the Wilds
Helps Officially Open Trail System

June 19, 2013
By Jake Marden

Colebrook News and Sentinel

After years-long efforts by multiple state and local agencies, organizations and volunteers, the Ride the Wilds interconnecting ATV trail system hosted its grand opening event at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown this past Saturday.

New Hampshire governor Maggie Hassan, several state officials and legislators were on hand to commemorate the opening of the 1,000-mile system, and Gov. Hassan got a first-hand view of the trails, riding and driving an ATV to the Sugar Hill scenic view area. The ATVs were provided by Bear Rock Adventures of Stewartstown, who recently opened their machine rental business.

"Ride the Wilds is a prime example of what I love most about this state the 'all hands on deck' ethos," Gov. Hassan told the crowd. "It's these kind of experiences that will attract more outdoor enthusiasts to Cos County." She thanked everyone in attendance and praised the efforts of all who made the system a reality.

Harry Brown of the Metallak ATV Club and North Country OHRV Coalition also thanked everyone for coming to the event, which was co-hosted by the Coalition and N.H. Trail Bureau. He also thanked the organizers of the event: co-chairmen Michele and Clayton Hinds and committee members Wayne Frizzell, Henry Sanschagrin, Craig Washburn and Charlie Kurtz.

Last-Minute Glitch

The importance of everyone's cooperation was never more evident than early Friday morning, when the possibility arose that the grand opening may have to be postponed. Mr. Brown told the audience that on 11:44 p.m. on Thursday night, he received an e-mail from the state concerning the condition of some of the trails in the area.

"Significant concern was raised that with over ten inches of rain that had occurred, we should consider closing down some of the trails," he said. "The problem was one of the trails was the primary link to Coleman State Park from the east."

Mr. Brown said the calls started at 5 a.m. the next day. To set up an alternate route, permission would be required from Balsams View LLC, the Town of Colebrook and the State of New Hampshire. Balsams co-owner Dan Hebert quickly gave his permission, and Colebrook town manager Becky Merrow called an emergency town meeting at which the board approved ATV use of Golf Links Road for one day.

Finally, Chris Gamache of the N.H. Trails Bureau contacted the Department of Transportation for its approval. The DOT agreed, and placed two electronic message boards on Diamond Pond Road alerting travelers that there would be ATVs on the road.

A Grand Opening

Mr. Brown also shared some good news regarding the link between the Colebrook-Stewartstown railbed trail and Pittsburg's trail system. He reported that Mr. Gamache had learned Friday that Ethan Allen had finally approved the use of a 100-foot piece on its Beecher Falls property. That links the Canaan area with Pittsburg, and he said the paperwork should be ready in a few days to open the trail.

Mr. Brown said landowners were a big reason why the trail system came to fruition, and he also said it happened because of OHRV classes, active trail patrols, a good sign system, law enforcement from state and local police, Forest and Lands, Fish and Game, U.S. Border Patrol and the Cos County Sheriff's Department, and the judicial system.

Future challenges include maintenance, safety, trail access for various services, and funding. "Funding for all aspects of Ride the Wilds, whether it is for new construction, trail maintenance programs, educational programs or enforcement, is and will be in the future a significant challenge," he said. The continual support of towns, state and federal agencies and landowners is necessary for the system to continue, and there must be self-policing out on the trails.

Mr. Brown said that funding for the system came from the Colebrook Downtown Development Association, the Cos Economic Development Corporation, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, the Polaris Foundation and the Tillotson North Country Foundation.

Other speakers at the event were representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and Congressman Annie Kuster; state senators Jeff Woodburn and Andy Sanborn; state representative Robert Theberge; Parks and Recreation director Phil Bryce; Capt. John Wimsatt of N.H. Fish and Game; and Mr. Gamache.

Sean Goodwin and Patricia Magoon of the Bureau of Emergency Communications received plaques from Gov. Hassan for their roles in mapping out the trails for 911.

After each speaker had their turn, a ceremonial signing of legislation was witnessed and Gov. Hassan cut the ribbon.

VIP tours of the trail were held throughout the day, and various businesses offered displays at the park, while the clubs were busy serving up food and keeping things running smoothly.


Gov. Maggie Hassan was joined by volunteers who made the Ride the Wilds trail system
 a reality for the ribbon-cutting at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown on Saturday.
(Jake Mardin photo)


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