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ATVs to use 8 miles on Headwaters tract to link 1,000-mile system

Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Citizens Committee chairman Burnham “Bing” Judd of Pittsburg and newly appointed DRED Commissioner Jeff Rose of Goffstown greeted one another on Saturday, the first Headwaters Committee meeting in almost a year. The two men worked together to 10 years ago when Rose represented Sen. Bob Smith and Sen. John Sununu on task forces and committees that completed a complex deal on Oct. 10, 2003, to ensure that the 171,000-acre former International Paper lands in Pittsburg, Clarksville, and Stewartstown would remain undeveloped and accessible to the public. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
May 15, 2013
PITTSBURG — The key features of the 1,000-plus-mile "Ride the Wilds" ATV system will be in place on its Grand Opening Day celebration on June 15 in Coleman State Park, making the dream of connecting Perry Stream to Berlin a reality.

Eight miles of trail on which ATVs can ride on the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters tract has been "green-lighted," Trails Bureau chief Chris Gamache told Headwater Citizens Committee members at Saturday morning's meeting at the Pittsburg fire station. Two routes — one southern and one northern — on the Headwaters tract plus access to other public and private lands will allow ATVs to connect with the rest of the unique trail system, including Colebrook, Dixville, Millsfield, Berlin, Success, and Beecher Falls, and Canaan. The route includes networks of trails on the 7,500-acre Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin, the 8,000-acre Perry Stream Land and Timber Company in Pittsburg, and the trail system in Success, an Unincorporated Place.

Harry Brown of Stewartstown, president of the North Country OHRV Coalition to which 15 ATV Clubs belong, predicts that this "connectivity" will provide the same kind of economic benefit as opening a new factory would. No other New England state has anything comparable.

The news that all the paperwork has been signed guarantees that the June 15 Grand Opening of the interconnected ATV trail system will be a real celebration. Although some trail segments will not be open until mid-July or beyond, the new connected system means that ATV riders will not to have to trailer their machines from one location to another or at least will minimize that inconvenience, Brown said.

The key eight miles of trails on the Headwaters tract will be open to ATVs from May 23 to Sept. 30, from sunrise to sunset, Gamache explained. The closing date was selected to take into account bird hunting season. The speed limit will be 25 m.p.h. on gravel roads. Signs will be placed every half-mile on the Headwaters property, and three or four kiosks with updated maps, directions and rules will soon be put up. Magnetic trail counters will also be installed to collect usage data, and Fish and Game, Pittsburg Police Department, DRED, and the Coös County Sheriff's Department will provide law enforcement, Gamache explained.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked out an way to open up less than a mile of logging road on an 80-acre parcel on the east side of the Seven Islands Bridge by June 15. A deal is pending to formalize the exchange of this parcel for a super-easement on the 130-acre Big Island State Forest in Wentworth's Location, an Unincorporated Place. Because Big Island was purchased with LCHIP funds, however, the state cannot give up its fee ownership, but will instead turn management of the property over to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. The nonprofit Trust for Public Lands is facilitating the deal by paying for the needed appraisal.

The gap between downtown Errol and the trail system, as well as from Colebrook and Columbia to Stratford will not be fully filled in by June 15, according to Brown.

Two pieces of legislation, Gamache said, are awaiting Gov. Maggie Hassan's signature: HB 383, sponsored by Rep. Robert Theberge of Berlin, requires that youthful OHRV operators must either be licensed or accompanied by someone 18 or over who is licensed in order to ride on the traveled portion of public highways; and HB 574 that allows the very popular 62-inch-wide side-by-side ATVs to operate on state-owned trails in Coös County and on two recreational rail-trails in Grafton County — the Ammonoosuc from Haverhill to Bethlehem, and the Warren trail. Rep. Robert Theberge and Rep. Yvonne Thomas, both of Berlin, and Rep. Herb Richardson of Lancaster, plus District 14 Senator Sharon Carson of Londonderry, sponsored HB 574.

"This is as good a position as we possible can get for this summer's riding season," Gamache said.

"The OHRV community is thrilled that you acted so quickly on the request to open a portion of the Headwaters tract," Brown said on behalf of the North Country OHRV Coalition. He also warmly acknowledged the efforts of DRED, Fish and Game, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and many others.

After the meeting, Brown said that the Coös Economic Development Corp. (CEDC), voted at its regular meeting at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield to grant $20,000 to the Coalition: $5,000 for trail signs; and $15,000 for marketing and publicity, including rack cards at state visitor centers. The Coalition has been working collaboratively with New Hampshire Grand.

A new Lancaster-based ATV Club founded in March — the Kilkenny Trail Riders — is working with Gamache and Groveton and Lancaster selectmen to secure permission for ATVs to ride a number of town and state roads, allowing ATV enthusiasts to access gas stations, motels, and restaurants.

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