ATV's, a Crucial Trial on the Trail

July 10 2013
John Harrigan

Berlin Reporter

Readers, I would guess, are sick and tired of hearing more about ATVs than they ever wanted, so here is a vow to stay away from the subject until seasonsí end, which is months away because ATVs can run for six months compared to snow-based recreationís three.

This summer and fall are, in a way, the grand test for ATVers, who now enjoy the privilege of riding where they were not wanted or legal to ride before.

All of the towns in northern CoŲs County have, by town meeting vote or by fiat from the select boards, granted the several ATV clubs permission to use certain dirt roads in the countryside, mine among them (coming soon, ďHarriganís Hot DogsĒ stand) permission to use portions of town-maintained roads to serve as key links to trails.

And also, and this deserves more than an ďand also,Ē some landowners who have had no problem allowing snowmobile trails across their property but have balked at ATVs have now opened their land to ATV use, on a trial basis.

This is an enormous experiment, involving hundreds of thousands of acres. If the ATV organizers donít get it right, and fail to police rogue riders who make damaging swaths on standing hay or Christmas tree plantations or otherwise stray from the trails to the annoyance of neighbors, the grand experiment is doomed to failure.

So far mid-way into the season, Iím giving the effort a score of 95. Thatís the percentage of riders who go by my front lawn at a reasonable speed, watch where theyíre going, and wave.

The other 5 percent are local teenagers, as is almost always the case. But you know, I know just who they are, and eventually, as a founding member of the Colebrook areaís Metallak ATV Club, Iíll find a way to speak to them or their parents, or my fellow club members will.

All of us, law enforcement included, know just who has an ATV, and can recognize riders and machines. And all club members have to be ready to step up, and speak out. Itís that important.

Last week Nancee and I took a ride to downtown Colebrook on my Honda four-wheeler, a nice machine formerly owned by Ted Burns of North Stratford, a founder of the North Country ATV Club, then and I think now the largest club in the state. My ATV (purchased for farm use, not for riding the trails) has, I like to joke, a winch in front and sometimes a wench on back. She doesnít mind (he said).

The trail, which is in wonderful shape, slews itself off South Hill Road in Colebrook and around Beaver Brook Falls, an exhilarating ride, to say the least.

Along the way it runs along the backbone of a huge glacial esker, then skirts a kettle-hole---a circular depression stemming from huge chunks of ice left by the last glacier, three other notables being on the seventh and ninth holes at the Colebrook Country Club---and then enters flat country across Route 145 and on into downtown Colebrook. Would I make the trip again? No, unless for an emergency. Iíd rather walk, but thatís me.

What was amazing, besides the fact that such a trail even exists, was the number of signs directing ATVers where they should go, and shouldnít. Kudos to the Metallak club, and clubs everywhere that helped make this huge North Country trail system possible, for what obviously was a huge amount of work.

I canít claim any credit for that part. But Iím supporting the entire organized ATV effort wherever and whenever I can, and signed up for trail patrol.

If anyone sees a guy out there in a traffic-control vest on a Honda, looking as if he wished he were somewhere else, thatíll be me---and Iíll have a tow-strap, first-aid kit and extra gas at the ready. And Iíll have a note-pad handy to take down the registration numbers of scofflaw and unmannerly riders.


Some bozo on an ATV, with another ATV passing by along South Hill
Road in the background.  Nancee Harrigan Photo.



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