By: Jake Mardin
Colebrook News and
Following public release of an internal
e-mail last week, North Country OHRV Coalition president Harry Brown confirmed
that discussions have been held with Eversource Energy regarding donations of
land and cash that are contingent on approval of the Northern Pass transmission
Mr. Brown’s e-mail outlines a deal involving a donation from Eversource to Ride the Wilds of $250,000 to $500,000 up front, along with a gift of just over 1,100 acres and nine residential structures in the Diamond Pond area of Stewartstown and Colebrook, valued at over $1.5 million.
If the Northern Pass project is approved, Eversource will grant the coalition an easement for a trail from Halls Stream Road in Pittsburg to the vicinity of Bear Rock Road and Heath Road in Stewartstown. Eversource will also grant the coalition $500,000 a year over the next ten years.
In a press release issued last Wednesday, Mr. Brown acknowledged that the excerpt from the leaked e-mail was accurate, but said a public announcement would be premature because the coalition has yet to receive a firm offer from Eversource. He said if a more concrete offer materializes, it will likely go before the entire board of directors of the coalition, in a meeting likely to be recessed to allow input from the individual member clubs, followed by a reconvening of the coalition meeting with a vote for or against the proposal.
Mr. Brown said an offer like this one could provide a boost to the coalition and Ride the Wilds. With the land donation, the organization could lease or rent the structures or sell them to raise funds, and use the cash along with grants to build out the park. Securing the right of way from Pittsburg to Stewartstown “could kick off a program to secure rights of way throughout the system, thus securing passages for Ride the Wilds in perpetuity,” Mr. Brown stated in the release.
He said his recommendation for the $5 million is to invest it and use the money earned from the principal for operations. He said the clubs rely on state and federal grants “which remain as secure as a frayed shoestring,” and their own fund-raising efforts. “These earnings would give the coalition endless opportunities, including a significant staff which could include two or three construction crews to enhance all 11 of the coalition club’s trail construction and maintenance initiatives.”
Mr. Brown stated that the coalition has not been asked to endorse the Northern Pass project, and that he believes ATV riding can coexist with the transmission line. “Ride the Wilds has created a very strong economic engine for Coös County, and if Northern Pass moves forward with an offer, and if the coalition accepts the offer, [it] would be a game-changer for Ride the Wilds and the many businesses and jobs supported by this growing industry,” he said.
Several people reacted to the press release on the coalition’s Facebook page. Most were against any sort of deal with Northern Pass, while a couple suggested that it may be a way to help the club financially. A representative from Northern Pass was not available for comment as of press time.