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Resort visitors getting lost on back roads

Doug Cutillo, vice president of Steele Hill Resorts in Sanbornton, shows selectmen a sample sign he would like to place in strategic points along the way to the popular destination. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
August 12, 2009
SANBORNTON — GPS systems, MapQuest and Google are useful tools- sometimes. Here in rural areas of New Hampshire, however, they can be more of a detriment when driving the back roads.

Douglas Cutillo, vice president of Steele Hill Resorts, and Rob Robillard, director of operations, came before the Sanbornton selectmen last Wednesday night to explain just what type of guest comments they receive from people who have had difficulty reaching the resort.

"People are leaving comments that they get lost on the roads or couldn't find us," he told the board. "We send them directions with the confirmation letters and tell them not to follow MapQuest or Google, but some still do."

Cutillo began contacting MapQuest to ask that they update their mapping system for the resort. After several tries he was able to get through and they agreed to make the changes. Google did not respond, however, and people still get directions leading them down Class 6 roads, which can get them hopelessly lost at times. Travelers to Steele Hill are often sent along roads such as Hermit Woods, Isaac Colby Road, through Gaza Corner, or up Shute Hill by their GPS systems. Online maps recognize Class 6 roads off these routes as being passable to the resort, directing people to use roads that cannot be driven by most automobiles.

"The problem is Class 6 roads are on these maps still because they have the possibility to be used in the future," Cutillo said he was told by MapQuest.

Residents on Collison Road have made a plea to the resort to remedy the situation. They are frequently confronted with lost vacationers or have cars turning around in their driveways, posing a hazard. Police departments in Sanbornton and Meredith have also told Cutillo and his employees they need to have better signs. Emergency personnel in the past two months were called out to rescue some vacationers stuck on the back roads between the two towns.

"The only way we can think of to keep people from being lost," he continued, "is to direct them back."

Many of the roads posing problems with GPS and computer-generated directions are owned by the state, and Cutillo acknowledge he would ultimately have to make his request for some signs to the Department of Transportation. However, he ask for a letter of solidarity from the selectmen, along with permission for signs on town-owned roadways.

"We would like you to say 'Hey, the town does agree this is an issue. We approve of this' and then we can go to the next level," Cutillo said.

Steele Hill wants the signs to be innocuous, he said. They aren't intended for marketing purposes but merely to steer people the right way. A mock-up that he brought along was a red road sign stating "Steel Hill This Way." The bright color is intended to draw attention to the sign while remaining small enough so as not to be too intrusive on the local scenery.

"The more signs they miss," Cutillo said, "the more inclined they are to use their GPS, so we want them to be seen."

Selectman Steve Ober pointed out that some of the requested locations for signs lie within the Historic District of the town. He asked that Steele Hill contact the district for approval of signs in those areas. Andrew Livernois agreed with Cutillo that signs on commonly misdirected roadways would be useful in getting drivers back on track.

"Maybe you could have some signs that say 'Not the Way to Steele Hill' would be useful on some of these roads," Livernois said.

Selectmen ultimately agreed to pen a letter to the state about the need for signs to the resort. Cutillo said that he would have "wrong way" signs made to bring back to the board for approval in the near future.

Martin Lord Osman
Coos County Commissioners
Tilton School
Town & Country
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