Gorham's ATV Pilot Study Threatened by State Inaction
July 5 2013
By Gail Scott

The Berlin Daily Sun

GORHAM—On June 17, Gorham selectmen voted to promote a pilot study of the OHRV use of Routes 2 and 16 in Gorham during the big Jericho ATV Festival, July 26-27.  But permission for OHRVs to use these state roads must first come from the state and the state may not act on the request in time for the great weekend, according to Selectman Bill Jackson, speaking at the Monday night selectman's meeting.

Jackson said that he had heard from N.H. Bureau of Trails Chief Supervisor Chris Gamache that there is the potential that the state will not approve the plan before the end of July, when it would be too late for Gorham's study to coordinate with the Jericho event.

Jackson said that he understands that Ray Burton and others had been contacted to encourage the state to approve the project, but things are uncertain.  As a result, selectmen voted to rescind Selectman Jeff Schall's initial motion to inaugurate a pilot study of the OHRV use of the two main routes in Gorham during the festival weekend, if permission is not granted by the state.

Gorham Police P.J. Cyr reported back to selectmen on a plan for ATV use of side roads in Gorham should the state roads be opened to OHRV traffic from the parking lot of Route 2 to the intersection of Routes 2 and 16 at Moe's, Route 16 to the Pinkham Notch intersection, and Route 2 to Bangor Street.

The discussion of his plan was exploratory and the public attending the meeting was invited to comment, but the selectmen took no action on the plan. In his proposal, Cyr projected a "public access decal" to be issued by the Town of Gorham, permitting operation of OHRVs on authorized town streets. He suggested a cost of between $10 and $20, the fee collected to be used by the town to offset the costs of the additional OHRV traffic.
Jackson objected to the decal as being discriminatory, but to others, the fee sounded more like getting a fishing or hunting license, to which visitors don't object. Rene Boutin noted that Berlin had discussed doing the very same thing to help offset their ATV/OHRV costs. And others suggested charging no more than $5, while endorsing the concept.

In Cyr's plan, OHRV's displaying Town of Gorham Public Access Decals would be permitted on town streets for access to and from those portions of Route 2 and 16 designated for OHRV use. These streets included: Alpine, Bellevue Place, Broadway, Bangor, Blunden, Church, Cross, Elm, Evans, High, Highland Avenue, Lary, Madison, Mascot, Mechanic, Normand Avenue, Park, Smith, Union, Water and Woodland Park.

In addition, Cyr wrote, "OHRVs seeking to gain access from Washington Street, Mill Street, Peabody Street and Bell Street shall use Libby Street to Promenade Street to Church Street. OHRV's crossing Route 16 shall do so in accordance with NH RSA 215-A:6 X.  (That statue states, "A person may operate an OHRV across any public way where the operation of said OHRV is not otherwise prohibited by law, but said person shall comply with the following provisions:
(a) The crossing shall be made at an angle of approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the public way and at a place where no obstruction prevents a quick and safe crossing; and
(b) The operator shall bring the OHRV to a complete stop before crossing the shoulder or, if none, the public way, before proceeding; and
(c) The operator shall yield the right of way to all motor vehicle traffic on such public way which constitutes an immediate hazard to such crossing; and
(d) The operator shall possess a valid motor vehicle driver's license or shall have successfully completed the approved snowmobile or OHRV safety training course.)

Cyr said the OHRVs would not be permitted on the swinging bridge over the Peabody River. He noted that if Bangor Street was opened, OHRVs would be able to access the T&C via a dirt road that leads off Bangor Street to the motor inn. Among the prohibitions, Cyr listed the need for proper licensing; driving at reasonable and prudent speed, not in excess of 25 miles per hour which is the town speed limit; driving at further reduced speed when approaching intersections or railway grade crossing; approaching or going around a curve; approaching a hillcrest; traveling on narrow or winding trail and when a special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic ...."

Hours of operation appeared to be limited by the lights vehicles were equipped with. A curfew was suggested, but Beth Host pointed out sometimes a vehicle is disabled while on the trail and it takes till well after dark to make repairs and get back to civilization. She said it would be a double whammy to get stuck with a curfew fine in addition to all the trouble on the trail. It was also pointed out that "8 p.m. is way too early. Say you're staying at the T&C and you want to stop at Mr. Pizza for supper. ..... "

For violations of the proposed ordinance, Cyr suggest a fine of "not more than $1,000." 

One person asked how residents from Jimtown Road would get to the trail unless the Route 2 access began at Jimtown Road.  Cyr said he would "have a problem with that option" where the speed zone changes to or from 55 mph on Gorham Hill to the town speed limit. He suggested opening up the rail trail to Jimtown Road for that access.

As for the already challenging parking problem, Cyr suggested allowing parking along Railroad Street from Church Street as well as the Route 2 parking lot.  Selectmen took no action on Cyr's proposed plan but thanked him for making this first draft.

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