City Receives Landowner of the Year Award

March 16, 2013
by Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun

BERLIN The city was recognized as 'Landowner of the Year' yesterday by the N.H. Trails Bureau for its active role in protecting public access to snowmobile trails.

The award was presented to Mayor Paul Grenier by Trails Bureau head Chris Gamache at Jericho Mountain State Park in front of members of the N.H. House Committee on Resources, Recreation, and Development. The committee members were there for a tour of the 7,800-acre park and its 80 miles of OHRV trails.
Gamache said the bureau decided to give the award to the city because of its pro-active stand allowing snowmobile trails on city property and working to obtain easements with private owners, such as Burgess BioPower, to allow snowmobile and OHRV trails. He noted the bureau works with over 5,000 private landowners each year and said Berlin stands out for its efforts.

Grenier thanked the bureau and also expressed his appreciation of the committee's work in helping pass legislation to allow the 60-inch wide so-called side-by-side ATVs to operate in all of Coos County. Currently, the side-by-side ATVs are only allowed in Jericho Mountain State Park. Gov. Hassan is expected to sign the bill into law.

Eight members of the House committee attended the tour including Chair Shannon Chandley of Amherst, Vice Chair Suzanne Smith of Hebron, and local representative Yvonne Thomas of Berlin. DRED Commissioner Jeffrey Rose said he felt it was important for the legislators to see some of the results of the decisions they make in Concord. He said the hope is to make the park an economic catalyst for the region.

Both Grenier and Gamache spoke about the partnership between the city and Trails Bureau that lead to the creation of Jericho Mountain State Park. Grenier said the city owned a 300-acre parcel that included Jericho Lake but did not have the resources to develop what he called a hidden jewel. Knowing the surrounding property was for sale, Grenier said then Mayor Robert Danderson decided it would be a great location for an ATV park. An early supporter of then-Governor Craig Benson, Danderson approached DRED Commissioner Sean O'Kane in the summer of 2004 about his idea.

Gamache said the state was under a mandate to find a property for an ATV park. In 2005, the state approved the purchase of 7,200 acres of commercial timberland from Dillon Logging for $2.16 million and the deal was finalized in early 2006. He noted the final payment to the Dillon was made a year ago.

The state opened 11 miles of existing logging roads for ATV use that first year. A master plan was done that called for a total of 140 miles of trail. About 80 miles has been built. The city transferred ownership of Jericho Lake and the state acquired some additional pieces so the park now totals 7,800 acres.

Two years ago the Berlin High Building Trades Program built the visitors center. Gamache said the bureau is wrapping up the final site work which included putting in both water and a septic system. The building will include a small store to sell supplies and items such as state park tee shirts.

The master plan called for attracting a private developer to build a 200-site campground but two interested developers decided the proposal did not allow enough control and the 20-year lease was too short. Last year, Gamache said the bureau built a 20-site campground on a site formerly used by the city for camping. There are five cabins, six tent sites, and nine RV sites. He said the entire campground is already entirely booked for Memorial weekend as well as the ATV Festival weekend in July and the cabins are reserved most of the summer.

Gamache said the next project is rebuilding the bathhouse and showers near the beach. He said use of the beach has grown tremendously with 160 to 180 people there on a hot summer day.

There are also two picnic pavilions at scenic locations along the trail system and the White Mountain Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club has built a warming hut that has proven popular.

Gamache stressed the park is also used by mountain bikers, snowmobilers, and kayakers. Last winter there were sled dog races and the park was even helped host the Maynesboro Stud Ride. Opening day for the park this year is scheduled to be May 23.

Three local business people, Randy Cicchetto of Jericho Motorsports, Ray Bergeron of Northeast ATV, Janet Valliere of Absolute Adventure, spoke about the importance of the park to the local economy. "It's definitely an economic boost to the North Country," said Bergeron. Bergeron and Cicchetto provided the side-by-side ATVs for the tour.

Bergeron pointed out the park is an important component of the 1,000 'Ride the Wilds' ATV trail system in Coos County. Harry Brown, head of the North Country OHRV Coalition, invited the representatives to the grand opening of the trail on June 15 at Coleman State Park in Stewartstown.

Gamache and Grenier cited the work of local ATV and snowmobile clubs who provide most of the volunteer labor for the trail work. Gamache also pointed out that Fish and Game, represented by Captain John Wimsatt, is responsible for enforcement and search and rescue.

"What we see here is the work of a lot of people," Grenier said. The mayor also told the legislators to be prepared to be amazed by the riding and trails offered by the park.





Mayor Paul Grenier (right) receives the NH Bureau of Trails Landowner of the Year

award from Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache.  (BARBARA TETREAULT PHOTO)



The group tours one of the cabins built by the state last summer.




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