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ATV Club seeks amendment to Conn. Headwaters easement

September 30, 2009
PITTSBURG — A northern ATV club has proposed adding ATV travel as a permitted use of the land in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Tract.

The Great North Woods Riders (GNWR) ATV Club of Pittsburg are eager to secure permission for a connector route that would link the club's 100-mile trail system on the 8,000-acre Perry Stream Land and Timber Co. property, to ATV trails in Errol and Millsfield. The Perry Stream property is located between Indian and Perry Streams.

A connector would give access, club representative Tom "Otto" Whelan said, to about 100 miles of ATV trails in Errol and Millsfield. Three clubs are cooperating in this venture, he explained, calling it a "grass-roots" community development effort to counter a badly sagging economy.

An amendment to the legal conservation easement document that stipulates precisely what uses and activities are permitted under the state-owned conservation easement on the vast Connecticut Lakes Headwaters tract has been proposed by the GNWR ATV Club of Pittsburg, explained Commissioner George Bald of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) at Friday's meeting of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Citizens Advisory Committee. When the complex document was drawn up, in a process that involved many people, it was understood that there could well be requests for new uses on the 146,400-acre tract, so a process was created up that requires lots of opportunity for public involvement.

"It's not a quick process; it's a lengthy, very substantial public process," said Commissioner Bald, pointing out that this was the first public announcement of the local ATV club's formal request.

Mr. Whelan and Trails Bureau chief Chris Gamache have been working together, preparing to follow the specified legal process and are exploring the shared use of designated state-owned roads, including Magalloway Road.

If such a connecting route were to be opened up, ATV-riding "would be as big as snowmobiling," Mr. Whelan predicted. "We could draw from a big area, similar to the Hatfield and McCoy trail system" in the mountains of southern West Virginia that boast more than 500 miles of ATV, motorcycle, dirt biking, horseback riding, and walking trails.

Estimates of the total number of miles of road that would have to be traversed to ride from the northeast corner of the Perry Stream trails in Pittsburg to the ATV trail system in Errol ranged from over 20 miles to less than 50 miles.

Advisory Committee member Merrill Dalton noted that the Pittsburg select board, of which he is a member, voted to allow additional ATV access, on a trial basis, to Hill Road from Fern Drive to the southern intersection of Hill Road and Route 3, with a posted speed limit of 10 m.p.h.

Some of those on hand said that the system might be closed during hunting season, but others noted that game bird hunting is good along the edges of gravel roads. Mud season closures would also be a possibility.

Those familiar with the various possible routes and gravel roads suggested that flexibility would be needed, since timber harvesting activity could close down distance riding if only a single route were to be specified.

Richard Carbonetti of LandVest, who was on hand representing the new tract owner — Heartwood Forest Plan Fund 6 — a timber investment management organization, said that in looking at the possibility of shared road use his client would hold safety as its primary concern. Two deaths — one of a snowmobiler and the other an ATV rider — had taken place on other properties that Heartwood owns. Although in no way held responsible, he said that those in charge were deeply saddened.

Chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg said that he had read that the city of Berlin is going to open up a designated ATV route across the city to connect the ATV trails in Jericho Mountain State Park to the ATV trails in Success. Greenville, Me., has apparently taken a similar step.

Committee member Richard "Dick" Moquin, a Manchester-based attorney, said he felt somewhat like the proverbial skunk at a picnic since only unalloyed enthusiasm had been expressed by everyone else on hand.

"I have some concerns about noise," he said, noting that it seemed as though the whole of Pittsburg would be open to ATV riders. "There needs to be one place in Pittsburg where it is quiet." He urged that the possibility of "peaceful enjoyment of the wilderness" be maintained.

A Bay State resident from the western part of that state said that in East Longmeadow, Mass., ATV riders caused so much erosion and noise and trampled on others' rights that 80 percent of private landowners have posted their land against any use, including fishing, hiking, hunting, and not just against ATVs.

Committee member Paul Doscher of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests asked that DRED prepare a synopsis of the state's experience with the seven-mile ATV trail in Nash Stream State Forest as well as at Jericho.

Mr. Carbonetti said that Heartland likely will seek an amendment to the conservation easement to allow it to address some road issues by developing some spur roads to shorten up the distance that timber must be hauled to a log landing.

State monies help pay for the state's purchase of a conservation easement that prohibits development, maintains public access, and requires sustainable timber harvesting practices on the Headwaters property. The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) awarded $2 million in November 2001, and an additional $10 million bond was included in the 2002 budget.

Martin Lord Osman
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