WEST MILAN — Selectmen Monday night quickly approved a request to allow ATV use on sections of selected state roads in Milan after the public showed up in mass to support the proposal.
Selectmen and N.H. Trails Bureau officials Chris Gamache and Clint Savage wanted to gauge public support for allowing ATVs to use a section of Route 110A from Cedar Pond Campground to Cedar Brook Road, a section of the East River Road, and Route 16 from the East River Road to the Milan Village Store.
Gamache said new state legislation allows ATVs to use sections of state roads in Coos County to provide access from trail systems to local businesses. He said the state understands the economic potential of ATVs to the region. As the county creates its 1,000-mile Ride the Wild Loop, Gamache said use of state roads to connect to local businesses will allow riders to buy gas, get something to eat, and spend the night.
Under the law, ATV use of approved sections of state roads is limited to daylight hours and winter use is not allowed. ATVs are required to ride in the travel lane and the law is limited to state roads with speed limits below 50 miles per hour. Gamache said the state recently allowed use of sections of Route 2 and 16 in Gorham for the Jericho ATV Festival. He said there were no problems with the ATV use in Gorham.
With the town of Milan’s support, Gamache said the proposal must now go to the Department of Transportation and State Police for review and approval with any conditions the two departments may want to add. He said he expects that review will take until late fall so he said realistically the road sections will be open for use next year.
The meeting drew a crowd of approximately 75 people and all spoke in favor of opening the roads. “We’re definitely in favor,” said Pam Fedlhouse, owner of Cedar Pond Campground. Feldhouse said this year they have received a lot of calls from potential guests asking about ATV trail access. She said the ATV business is going to be critical to this part of the state.
In Milan Village, both Rita Dube, owner of Du-bee Our Guest Bed and Breakfast, and Mike Viens, Milan Luncheonette owner, said they look forward to ATV access to their respective businesses.
Many of the speakers urged the trails bureau to open up more roads to ATV use. One frequent recommendation was to allow ATVs to use Route 110A from Cedar Pond to access Gord’s Corner Store. Gamache said Route 110A is a twisty road with no breakdown lanes. He said he would prefer to find an alternate route. In addition, use of the section of road over the bridge would not be allowed so an ATV bridge would have to be built. Gord Roberge, owner of the store, said he would pay the cost of a bridge to his location if the bureau built it.
“You build it, I’ll pay for it,” he said. Gamache admitted that the bureau has a full slate of activities underway and wants to be move carefully in opening up state road to ATV use. “We’re not looking for a wholesale opening of every highway in Coos County,” he said.
He said the bureau wants to provide access that is needed to have a system in place for Memorial Day 2014. Next year, he said the bureau can work on opening additional sections throughout the county.
Henry Sanschagrin, president of the Presidential ATV Club in Gorham, recommended Milan form its own ATV club to work with the bureau on trails in the town. Larry Gomes of the White Mountains Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club offered to help with the paperwork to form a club. Gamache endorsed the idea of a Milan ATV club. He said a club would be eligible for funding to help build and maintain trails. “It would be a huge help to us,” he said. “We need eyes on the ground”.
Milan Selectman George Pozzuto said the town has a forest committee that manages its wood lots. He said Milan is looking for opportunities to grow its town forest and suggested there might be opportunities to acquire land that could also serve as ATV connector trails.
N.H. Trails Bureau Director Chris Gamache explains his agency’s proposal to allow ATVs on selected sections of state roads in Milan to
allow riders to access local busiensses. A large crowd turned out for the hearing at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting to support the concept.
Selectmen voted to give the town’s approval. The proposal must now be reviewed by state police and the N.H. Department of Transportation.
(RITA DUBE PHOTO).