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OHRV use OK'd on downtown Main Street mile, if state agrees

June 18, 2014
LANCASTER — After a nearly hour-long public hearing on Monday night, the select board voted unanimously, 2 to 0, to approve the use of Main Street from the intersection of Kilkenny Street (an extension of Depot Street) to Town Hall, contingent on state approval.

Both selectmen Leon Rideout and David Stickney voted yes; selectman Leo Enos was absent.

"We're taking baby steps," explained Rideout, noting that the board recognizes that some residents who live on its side streets oppose changing the town's character to benefit from some new tourist dollars.

Officers and members of the Kilkenny Trail Riders Club of Lancaster spoke in favor of their proposal to make it possible for ATV enthusiasts to go to local restaurants, motels, ice cream shops, gas stations and other stores and services, designed to transform the town into one of the major access points to "Ride the Wilds: 1,000-plus miles of interconnected trails."

Several parking lots in town, including the old F.B. Spaulding lot and the town hall lot, will be designated for car-and-trailer use.

The selectmen noted that they had substantially scaled back the Trail Riders' original proposal because of restricted sight lines and their cautious approach to changing traffic patterns.

If the state gives its approval, registered OHRVs will join the flow of traffic on Main Street and not be allowed on any sidewalks.

Assistant Commissioner Earl Sweeney of the state Department of Safety came north to review the Club's proposal after it was modified by the selectmen and town manager Ed Samson.

Both Rideout and Stickney said that they hope that the Trail Riders will secure landowner permission to build new trails in the woods.

Lucy Wyman pointed out that ATVs are called Off-Highway Recreational Vehicles because they don't belong on streets and highways.

The two board members said that if intractable problems and-or continual complaints develop, they would rescind permissions.

One Club member said that she feared that if townspeople didn't "jump on the bus now," the town would not catch up with other communities in the economic development race.

The town of Gorham was cited as a similar community where existing motels, shops, and both independent and chain restaurants, like McDonald's and Pizza Hut, have benefited from a new kind of tourist, that includes families.

Several residents said that they fear that teenage ATV drivers would hurt themselves or others, that OHRVs would turn out to be as noisy as many of today's motorcycles, and that opening up any of Main Street to ATVs would be letting the camel get his nose in the tent, soon to be followed by his whole body.

Rideout told Trail Riders Club officers that they must deal swiftly with any problems and regularly report to the board how things are going.

The selectman explained that Police Chief Bill Colborn and the town Police Department, Fish and Game conservation officers, and Trails Bureau personnel must work together and be in regular communication.

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