BERLIN – Discussion was sparked at Wednesday’s ATV Group meeting (see related story) on whether or not the ATV Festival is Berlin’s or whether it also includes Gorham, which has trail access to Jericho Mountain State Park.
Henry Sanschagrin, president of the Presidential OHRV Club of Gorham, reported that there is interest in Gorham in considering throwing a Block style party — patterned on the one on Berlin’s Main Street that was so successful on Friday night, July 26. A lot of ATV enthusiasts stay at motels and inns in Gorham and Shelburne and eat at Gorham’s restaurants and fast-food outlets, Sanschagrin pointed out.
Sylvia Poulin of Berlin’s Main Street program immediately took exception to the idea, pointing out that there is a good possibility that in 2014 Block parties might be planned on two successive nights, providing a fun back-to-back activity that makes cash registers ring.
After all, she said, the City Council had approved spending $4,000-plus in city funds to support the Festival. “The City has made the effort; it should reap the benefit,” she said. “The financing comes from the City. This is a Berlin thing; we don’t compete with Gorham’s annual Fourth of July events.”
“We’d like to make the Festival grow,” chimed in City Councilor Roland “Lefty” Theberge who chaired the meeting. Mayor Paul Grenier hopes that Berlin could be to ATVs what Laconia is to motorcycles, Theberge noted.
Pam Sullivan, the Northern NH Branding Project Manager for the NH Grand initiative, reported, however, that Citizens Bank had donated $14,000 to publicize the event across the state and in Boston, Providence and other New England markets.
Last fall, Poulin helped secure a $20,000 grant from the Citizens Bank Foundation for the City’s “Moving Downtown Forward” initiative, designed to support small businesses in Berlin’s downtown. She also serves as a member of the NH Grand Tourism Development Team.
“You shouldn’t be looking to draw a line between Berlin and Gorham,” said Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache. The Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce represents businesses in Berlin, Gorham, and surrounding communities, explained its office manager and spokesman Paula Kinney.
Lt. Wayne Saunders of the state Fish and Game Department, praised the City for its “cutting-edge” leadership in promoting ATV riding as an economic development tool. “Other communities are now following in your wake,” he said. “You threw the pebble in the pond, and the ripples are spreading out.”
Poulin acknowledged that the City must decide how involved to become in the “Ride the Wilds” initiative, designed to connect up to 1,000 miles of ATV trails across Coös County, sparked by Harry Brown of Stewartstown and many ATV-OHRV clubs that are members of the North Country OHRV Coalition.
City manager Jim Wheeler floated the idea that it might be time to think about developing a board of directors and a set of by-laws to regularize the City’s involvement in the Festival. Its original involvement was to set up the connector trail to link the Jericho Mountain State Park to the trails in Success. Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant funds that flowed through the North Country Council were spent to implement this project, he recalled.
Gamache explained that many of New Hampshire’s yearly events, such as the Swift Diamond Riders’ SnoDeo at Coleman State Park, the NH Snowmobile Association’s Ride-In for Easter Seals, or the Columbus Day NHSA weekend grass drag in Fremont and water cross races, require year-round planning and often a paid employee whose job is to coordinate its many elements.
When Gamache was asked how many riders the infrastructure at Jericho could support, he replied that at the moment the answer is in the 2,000 to 2,500 range, more or less the number that now travels to the State Park off Route 110.