Gorham Wants 3 Miles of State Highway Open to ATV's

June 26, 2013
By Edith Tucker

The Berlin Reporter

GORHAM — “The train is leaving the station,” is, in essence, what local business owners and OHRV enthusiasts said they were worried about at the June 18 public hearing held to see whether or not the town of Gorham would ask the state to open up nearly three miles of Routes 2 and 16 to ATV travel, allowing riders to patronize downtown restaurants, motels, and gas stations.

Both Trails Bureau chief Chris Gamache and Presidential OHRV Club president Henry Sanschagrin discussed a route that Gamache proposed that would run from the parking lot next to the Presidential Rail Trail on the north side of Route 2, west of town, to the busy Route 16 intersection that has a traffic light, right onto the combined Rtes. 2 and 16 highways, and then on Route 2 all the way to Bangor Street, at the Gorham/Shelburne town line east of town.

The proposal is based on a relatively new state law that allows OHRV use on state highways when the Department of Safety (NHDOS) and Department of Transportation (NHDOT) give their joint approval. 
Gamache proposed that ATVs be allowed to travel at the posted speed limit of 30 m.p.h. in the regular flow of traffic, similar to what is permitted in the neighboring City of Berlin.

Members of the public, including small business owners, pointed out to the 85 people on hand in the Medallion Opera House that Berlin, Colebrook, and Pittsburg have already successfully positioned themselves as ATV-friendly, and Gorham, despite being a hub of tourist activity since before the Civil War, is in danger of being by-passed.

Ron Pelletier of Errol said that a plus of ATV riding, unlike snowmobile travel, is that it is possible seven months out of the years “no matter what.” Snowmobiles depend on snow conditions.

Jay Holmes, who owns and operates Quick Lube in downtown Gorham, said that businesses in town are struggling in an economy that “is bad at best.” Property taxes are going to rise, Holmes warned with less state monies being sent to municipalities.

ATV Club members maintained that Gorham should be the jumping-off point for ATV circuit riders and not the communities further north, like Stewartstown, the home of North Country OHRV Coalition president Harry Brown.

Deputy Sheriff Keith Roberge said, “Let’s get it done so we can jump in with everybody else in the county!”

After an hour of testimony, with only two naysayers — Andrew Zboray of Gorham and Michele Cormier of Randolph — plus a letter of caution from EMS head Chad Miller — the board of selectmen — chairman Paul Robitaille, Bill Jackson, and Jeff Schall — unanimously approved three motions: that the selectmen support Routes 2 and 16 being open to ATVs as outlined in Chris Gamache’s proposal; that within the next two weeks Police Chief P.J. Cyr develop a map of town roads, taking into account the snowmobile access the town already has in place, that he believes could be opened to ATV use, primarily for local residents; and that as a pilot project all town roads be open to ATVs during the July 26-27 Jericho ATV Festival.

Since the hearing, the City of Berlin has announced that there will be a block party in downtown Berlin on Friday evening, July 26, specifically designed to attract riders to its restaurants and other businesses.

It’s a given that the permission of the selectmen will be sought to allow ATVs on some 175 feet of Bangor Street as part of the access to the Town and Country Motor Inn, just over the Shelburne town line. Yankee Forest has already granted permission for ATVs to travel some 800 feet on a road on its property.

Gamache must now take the selectmen’s approval to NHDOS and NHDOT. If his proposal, as endorsed by the Gorham selectmen, wins approval the Bureau will provide the necessary signage.

The selectmen must also decide whether or not to seek a federal waiver that would allow motorized vehicles to use the mile-long gravel multi-modal emergency trail bypass that runs from the south side of Route 2 to Bellevue Avenue near the combined Route 2 and 16 that, if opened up to ATVs, could avoid the Route 2-16 intersection by Moe’s gas station-convenience store. Gamache said that the Congressional delegation would have to become involved if this were ever to happen.

Henry Sanschagrin of Gorham, who heads up the Presidential OHRV
Club, presented information at the June 18th public hearing in
Gorham Town Hall on the nearly three miles of state highways —
Routes 2 and 16 — that most Club members and Trail Bureau head
Chris Gamache believe should be opened up to ATV riding, allowing
local businesses to capture some of the dollars that riders are bringing
 into Coös County, now the home of the “Ride the Wilds: 1,000
miles of interconnected ATV trails.


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