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Proposal to open Rail Trail to ATVs withdrawn


January 13, 2010
GORHAM — A controversial proposal by the state Bureau of Trails to open about a mile on the east end of the 20-mile-long state-owned Presidential Rail Trail to summertime use by ATVs and trail bikes has been withdrawn, for at least a year, said Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache in a Monday afternoon telephone interview.

Businesses in Gorham requested the state's help in finding a route that would bring ATV enthusiasts to their doors, he explained, noting that the Gorham have been notified.

Area residents, particularly those in Randolph, were opposed to the idea of opening up any part of the former Boston and Maine Railroad roadbed up to any summertime motorized use until the entire route, from Gorham to Whitefield, could be scoped out and a master plan adopted.

"We don't have the time or the resources to pursue the idea at this time," Mr. Gamache. "We've been working with other landowners to try to get a satisfactory route in place."

Those against allowing ATVs on the rail trail in non-snowmobile seasons have used local newspapers to express their opposition whereas those in favor — mostly business owners — have shipped their comments directly to Bureau headquarters in Concord.

"We feel some obligation to help provide routes for ATV riders who come to Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin to get to local services," said Bureau Chief Gamache.

A "Friends of the Presidential Rail Trail" organization is being formed, and its leaders have pledged to work in positive ways with the state agency, he added.

The Jefferson Conservation Commission has called for a master plan to be drawn up, and that idea that has supported by the Randolph selectmen and the Appalachian Mountain Club. Many hiking trails on the south side of Route 2 cross the rail trail.

The Bureau of Trails is under the state Division of Parks and Recreation that is in the Department of Resources and Economic Development.

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