By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — New Hampshire Fish and Game officials aren't pleased with Public Works Director Wes Anderson's idea of putting a floating bridge in the Weirs Channel for snowmobiles.
Snowmobilers have been using a sidewalk on the Route 3 (Endicott Street North) bridge to get across the waterway and access a designated trail along nearby railroad tracks.
However, the sidewalk, the only one on the bridge, is for pedestrians. It's not marked for snowmobile use and it's not legal to use it for that purpose. The issue came to a head because pedestrians want the city to plow the sidewalk, while snowmobilers prefer it unplowed so they can run their machines across it.
As an alternative, Anderson has been researching the possibility of a floating bridge.
In a letter to Belknap Snowmobile Club President Tyson McKenna, Fish and Game Department Conservation Officer Chris Brison expressed concerns with a floating bridge. The department enforces snowmobile laws and rules.
Brison said in the letter that even if the City Council were to designate the Route 3 bridge as a snowmobile crossing, there are no legal snowmobile trails leading to it or to a potential floating bridge.
“We are unaware of any legal trails on the landward easterly side of the Weirs channel,” he said. “Approval to cross any bridge in that location will exacerbate illegal trail and road riding on the land easterly of the channel.”
And there's another problem.
Snowmobilers sometimes illegally skim their machines across the surface of the water in the Weirs Channel. One did so last winter, pulling a barefoot water skier. A video of the stunt went viral.
Someone skimming a snowmobile through the channel could smash into a floating bridge across the waterway.
“From a safety standpoint, the proposal for a floating bridge raises concern for snowmobilers that illegally skim the channel,” Brison stated. “A floating bridge may cause fatalities, and serious bodily injury to snowmobilers that have historically and illegally skimmed the Weirs channel during open water conditions. This structure poses risk for our first responders that are tasked with recovering drowned victims.”
Snowmobilers sometimes proceed north on Route 3 to use a Cumberland Farms gas station in the area. Brison said that is an illegal riding area as well, and that Fish and Game will enforce that restriction.
McKenna, the president of the snowmobile club, said the letter doesn't leave many options.
He said that it's possible the city could find some solution, but he said the city has not been in contact with him.
“Until the city wants to reach out, there's not much we can do,” he said.
McKenna also said that the floating bridge idea never made much sense, anyway, particularly because there's no money to pay for it.
The issue has been placed on the Tuesday City Council agenda, but given the state's position, Anderson, the city's Public Works Director, doesn't think councilors will take action on the matter.