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24 hour city ATV trail proposed

September 16, 2009
BERLIN — The city council had its first read of city ordinance 2009-11 last week, which will create an ATV trail through the city, connecting the trails on the east side of the Androscoggin River with those on the west and Jericho Mountain State Park.

The ordinance originally listed the legal hours of operation for the trail, which will use city streets to get from one side of town to the other, as from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., the same hours as the snowmobile trail in the winter. The traffic and safety committee recommended reducing those hours to something closer to sunrise and sunset, but the council rejected that recommendation and voted to amend the ordinance to allow 24 hour use of the trail.

The council decided to also amend the snowmobile trail hours to be open 24 hours.

The ordinance was tabled after the amendments were made. There will be a public hearing on the ordinance on September 21, when it will have its second reading and likely will be voted into effect. The route will still need to be marked and signed once the ordinance is passed. Organizers said the trail will likely open in October.

Councilor Tim Cayer, who has been working with the Androscoggin Valley ATV club (AVATVC) on the project, said the police haven't had an issue with nighttime snowmobile operators. He wants the trail to be safe, he said, and he wants it to be convenient for ATV riders. The sunrise/sunset time limit would have been a hindrance and he was glad the council got rid of it.

The other issue the council has to figure out before the ordinance will be ready for a vote is what will happen in the winter. The council decided the ATV trail will revert to the snowmobile trail through the winter, but the exact wording and dates was not determined.

ATVs are not allowed to cross one property on the snowmobile trail through the city, which effectively closes the trail through the city to ATVs in winter. But in this case safety trumps convenience, said Councilor Cayer; it is more important to keep ATVs off the streets when conditions are slick than it is to give them a winter route through the city.

Without the new ordinance ATVs have no trail from one side of the city to the other, so advocates weren't complaining that the new trail won't give them winter access. Councilor Cayer said he and the AVATVC will continue to work to reach an acceptable solution to the problem.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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