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ATVs no different than other vehicles on connector trail

August 25, 2010
BERLIN — The city connector ATV trail has been in full-fledged operation since the spring, but the rules of the road are still fuzzy for operators of motor vehicles and ATVs alike, say Berlin Chief of Police Peter Morency and Deputy Brian Valerino. They are in the midst of trying to better educate the public on the issue, explaining to local residents through the media, informational meetings, as well as individual by individual, that ATVs should be treated the same as any other motor vehicle while on the road.

"ATVs must travel with the regular motoring public. It's no different to a motorcycle, car, or truck," said Deputy Valerino, noting that both ATVers and drivers are confused. Many ATVers are driving in the breakdown lane, while many operators of cars and motorcycles are going around ATVers who are correctly driving down the road. "If a car goes around an ATV, that's an illegal pass."

"[ATVers are] so used to being able to ride on the side of the road," said Deputy Valerino, pointing out that in Canada, as well as other states, the rules are different. "They think they're doing the right thing."

"They get that mentality, 'I need to be as far right as I can be,'" added State Representative Paul Ingersoll on the subject. "I think through education and signage we are going to be where we need to be."

The maximum speed limit on the trail is 30 mph, but the limit is 25 mph for most of the length, a speed that was lowered to accommodate the ATVers. Though, Representative Ingersoll insists that ATVs should have no trouble maintaining that speed, as some can go up to 60mph or above — though not a speed he recommends for any ATVer operating on pavement.

"The ATVs themselves were not designed to go on pavement," said Representative Ingersoll, noting they are harder to steer in such situations. "They have to maintain a low speed on pavement because there's nothing giving under it."

Though some ATVs come equipped with directionals for road use, many do not have them, which means ATVers who plan to ride the connector trail should become familiar with hand signals.

The police are also worried that, though the connector trail runs from Jericho State Park through town to the Success Trailhead, ATVers will drive from their house along other roads not designated for ATVs to get to the connector trail.

"There are no connector trails from someone's house to the connector trail," said Chief Morency. ATVers must walk or trailer to the connector trail. "We don't want one person to ruin it for everyone."

Regardless of any rules that may be inadvertently broken, all parties agreed that the ATVs have brought a lot of positive business to the area.

"We need to tap into our natural resources. We need to bring people here and show them our mountains through our trail systems, whether they are hikers or four-wheelers," said Chief Morency.

"I think we're on the verge of a gold mine if we can make everybody work together," said Representative Ingersoll, noting that many of the people who own expensive ATVs and the equipment it takes to haul them all the way to Berlin can only help the economy.

"We want to see these types of people coming to our area," said Representative Ingersoll who has met people from all over, including New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and people are already asking about the dates for next year's ATV festival, which just happened last month. The ATVers like being able to get food on their ATVs, said Representative Ingersoll. "Everybody's seeing a positive thing in this. I think the police department as a whole is going a good job," he said.

"I think it's going to take a period of time. I think after a while, it is going to be commonplace," said Chief Morency of the rules for driving ATVs or motor vehicles on the connector trail. "We're learning as we go along."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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