BERLIN – The Fourth Annual Jericho ATV Festival, held on Friday, and Saturday, July 26-27, at the 7,500-acre Jericho Mountain State Park, plus a downtown Main Street Block Party on Friday evening, was a great success with many improvements incorporated over the previous year’s event, agreed the dozen or so ATV Group members at Wednesday’s City Hall meeting, chaired by City Councilor Roland “Lefty” Theberge.
The meeting was held to review any traffic, parking, and other issues experienced during the Block Party and Festival so that adjustments can be planned for next year’s Fifth Annual Festival, tentatively set on Friday and Saturday, July 25-26, 2014, the now-traditional fourth weekend in July.
St. Anne’s Birthday Feast and Pilgrimage for Vocations will be on July 26. No worrisome issues arose between the two overlapping events, however since participants showed mutual respect.
City Manager James “Jim” Wheeler said he would draw up a bullet list of items that should be addressed before the next ATV Festival takes place, based on the discussion.
Police Chief Peter Morency reported that there had been 213 calls for service during the ATV Festival, but that 99.9 percent of the ATV riders were law abiding citizens. “We’ve had very positive feedback, with nearly all the problems caused by a handful of locals, some driving without licenses,” he said. At one point there was a group of six bikers, one of whom had caused a problem. The group pointed to the police where the miscreant was locateded, saying they did not want to ruin the event for everyone else.
“Overall it was good: there were no accidents and riders obeyed the law and used hand signals,” the chief said. “Some calls were requests for information and advice.” The B.P.D. has estimated that it would cost $7,000 extra to provide adequate police coverage during the Festival, but he total turned out to be $6,804. Officers agreed to make adjustments so coverage could be concentrated, including split shifts, foot patrols and bicycle duty, the chief explained. Morency said he had expended grant monies to reduce the tax impact, and, in the end, the cost to taxpayers totaled just over $2,000.
The Coös County Sheriff’s Department was on hand and extremely helpful, the chief said. Lt. Wayne Saunders of the state Fish and Game Department, who now serves as District One chief supervising conservation officers in Coös and Grafton counties, suggested that the Chief Morency and Gorham Police Chief P. J. Cyr confer with one another to develop similar or identical hours of operation during the ATV Festival to cut down on confusion. ATVs are not well equipped with adequate lights for regular nighttime use, noted Saunders.
Passage of House Bill 383, designed to strengthen the requirements for minors riding on highways, improved the Festival, Chief Morency said. Lefty’s brother, Rep. Robert Theberge of Berlin, was the bill’s prime sponsor.
Sylvia Poulin, representing the Main Street Program, reported that having ATVs park on both sides of the street, facing inward, had worked out better than the originally planned middle-of-the-road parking. She asked that police officers not stand inside the beer tent, which some patrons found intimidating, but instead walk around outside it. Deputy police chief Brian Valerino replied that the officers’ presence had served to avoid problems.
Poulin also asked Fish and Game to review its fee schedule and to consider re-introducing a sticker good for only a month. She also asked Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache to consider waiving entrance fees at the Park during the Festival.
Public Works director Michael “Smiley” Perreault pointed out that small portable ramps should be put in place to meet so wheelchair users can maneuver where vendors’ tents blocked access to sidewalks. There was consensus that bigger, eye-level “Event Parking” signs are needed within the downtown area plus more directional signs indicating how to get from Route 16 to Route 110 and the State Park.
All the efforts of volunteers who wore T-shirts identifying their role were praised as were employees of the City’s Public Works Department plus employees of the state Department of Transportation (NHDOT) who installed portable lighted message boards warning that OHRVs were on local highways.
A Glen Avenue greeter from the Androscoggin Valley Chamber who handed out information to those arriving at the City’s entrance was a big help, everyone agreed.
Several people added that directing spectators to parking and events within the Jericho Park itself is important, in addition to the signs targeting ATV riders to direct them to various inside-the-park venues. Spectators were confused, and developing a shuttle bus system should be considered in the future.
Representatives from ATV clubs participated in the meeting: Rene G. Boutin, vice president and assistant trail master of the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club that operates in Berlin and Success; the Club’s Jericho trail master Erik Anderson; and Henry Sanschagrin of the Presidential OHRV Club in Gorham.
The Festival’s success is the result of the City’s desire to diversify its economic base by developing recreational assets. Mayor Bob Danderson put together a package that ultimately created Jericho Mountain State Park that is laced with ATV trails that can be enjoyed by both novice riders as well as those with greater experience.
Horizons Engineering of Littleton rolled out its Riding Area Master Trail Development Plan in Feb. 2007, completed under contract for the Trails Bureau.
In 2009, Berlin issued a proclamation, signed by then Mayor David Bertrand, that pointed out that whereas Berlin was “creating a 21st century center of commerce focused on a community effort based on a variety of local and regional outdoor recreational experiences; and... is the host community for the Jericho Mountain State Park which contains 7,500 acres of ATV trails on beautiful wooded parkland,” it recognized the importance of connecting the Success Trails on the east side of the City to the Jericho trails on the west side ... to encourage even more growth of ATV activity” by opening up the crosstown connector ATV trail “as a grand beginning of another great recreational asset....”. Perreault pointed out that the first meeting of Berlin’s ATV Group was held on Sept. 30, 2009, to begin planning for the first Festival at Jericho Mountain State Park.
On Saturday and Sunday, July 10 and 11, 2010, cars and trucks with ATV trailers packed parking lots along Route 110 in Berlin and filled municipal lots with access to the local ATV trail because of the Can-Am Jericho ATV Festival, a first-time event at Jericho Mountain State Park that brought thousands of ATV enthusiasts to the North Country, according to an online account that remains on the web.
Then-Interim Director of the NH Division of Economic Development Roy Duddy, the agency that provided the seed money to develop the event through a federal grant administered locally by the North Country Council, said the event exceeded expectations. "A crowd of more than 2,000 spectators and ATV and UTV riders and enthusiasts attended the two-day event—a huge turnout for a new event," he said.
"We're especially pleased because the Festival is part of a key economic development initiative funded by the State that’s designed to bolster and stabilize the economy of Coös County and establish it as an outdoor recreation center. The event introduced the newest State Park to a wide audience and showcased it as the off-highway recreational vehicle (OHRV) hub for the region.”