STEWARTSTOWN – Voters on Town Meeting Day in some North Country towns will consider whether to close town roads to ATV use because of noise and traffic concerns.
The Caledonian-Record reports riding clubs and a chamber of commerce are pushing back and urging residents to vote against the articles, saying that the Class V roads connect to a trail system that would be at risk of being shut down without the access.
Voters in Pittsburg, Stewartstown and Colebrook will consider the matter next week.
Ride The Wilds, the more than 1,000 miles of interconnected trails in Coos County, has grown in popularity. Supporters say it has boosted area businesses and the economy.
But some residents say they don't like the vehicles passing by some homes on a weekend, blowing dust inside, generating noise, creating a safety hazard, and diminishing their quality of life.
"I know families who leave on a Friday evening and come back late Sunday because it's horrible to be in their own homes," said Monique Petrofsky, of Stewartstown, who lives on one of the roads.
Her son, John Petrofsky, said this isn't to say there should be no ATV trails. "Keep them in the woods, off roads, and away from people's houses. You can get from Berlin to Pittsburg largely on logging roads."
Corrine Rober, co-owner of Bear Rock Adventures, said the riding clubs are advancing a plan to reroute some trails and take them off roads, but that takes time and landowner permission. Membership in riding clubs has increased from 2,000 to 9,000 in one season, she said, and that provides money for changes to the trail system, solving some of the complaints.
In addition to Bear Rock Adventures, among those arguing against the proposals to deny road access are the North Country Chamber of Commerce, the Metallak ATV Club, and the Great North Woods ATV Club. They feel that shutting off the roads would harm restaurants, hotels, power sports businesses, real estate and the region's tourism industry.
The Legislature, meanwhile, is considering bills on ATVs. One, sponsored by Rep. Wanye Moynihan, D-Dummer, would limit the expansion of trails into neighborhoods by requiring that most neighbors agree before towns authorize them. The bill also would lower the noise limit on the vehicles and give property owners the ability to sue for attorney fees against riders who attempt to sue them over liability.
More than 100 people on both sides recently attended a public hearing on the bill, the Concord Monitor reported . Diane Holmes, who wears earplugs when she gardens and leaves her property when she can on weekends, said she wasn't aware of trail expansions until it was too late.
"You don't fully understand the immense impact that it's going to have on the rest of your life," she said. "It doesn't give a fair field to play in."