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Luc Cote says Errol's economic future depends on ATVs

September 08, 2011
ERROL — Developing through routes and trails for ATVs is essential if the town's economic base is to remain strong said Luc Cote, vice president of the thriving L. L. Cote general store and gas station, featuring hardware and outdoor recreational supplies.

"ATVs are bigger than snowmobiles, which are dependent on snow and cold weather," Cote explained Congressman Charlie Bass and Executive Councilor Ray Burton at their Wednesday morning stop at the large wood-log-clad store near the intersection of Routes 26 and 16, not far from the Androscoggin River.

Allowing ATVs on state highways has "gotta come," Cote said. "What's the difference between a motorcycle and an ATV, except that one has two wheels and the other four?"

L. L. Cote's yearly snowmobile sales numbered 100 to 120 just a few years ago, but slumped last winter to 30 to 40.

Riders can use ATVs for nine or 10 months a year, and they are less expensive and last a far longer time, Cote noted.

When asked by Burton about his experience with state services and agencies, Cote replied that Umbagog Lake State Park in Cambridge and Mollidgewock could stay open for a longer season and be more cost-effective if they were privatized. "They compete with local businesses," he complained.

"Privatization is in the wind," Burton said, noting that he had discussed this possibility when he interviewed Phil Bryce, a former Milan resident who was recently appointed Director of the state Division of Parks and Recreation.

Allowing wider ATV trails that would permit side-by-side ATVs is another controversial issue, pointed out others on hand.

An 11-mile snowmobile trail is being opened up on the Errol town forest, and the Thirteen Mile Woods Association is having conversations with ATV users on their interest in the forest.

Cote also said that the logging truck bans that are put in place on Route 16 from the Maine border to Milan during mud season play havoc with business deliveries. "How is it that road damage only can happen up here and not down below?" he asked rhetorically.

"Camping was down this summer," Cote said. "It was the Canadian traffic that saved us," he said. "That's true in the Rangeley Lakes, too; I supply two gas stations there, so I keep track of things there."

Burton's brother-in-law Ken Grimes who is married to Mary Burton Grimes noted that in his opinion the concrete boat access ramps at First and Second Connecticut Lakes and at Lake Francis are in dire need of replacement, because their slabs have broken up, creating sharp edges that are hazardous to boaters using them. Both Burton and Grimes graduated in the Class of 1958 at Woodsville High.

L.L. Cote is a family-run company, Cote said, noting that the first "L" is for his wife, Louise, who is president of the company that now employs 30 people.

Their three adult children work in and around the place. Their son, Shawn, runs the lumberyard and convenience store. Their daughter, Kristina, is in charge of ATVs and clothing sales. Their daughter, Kathleen "Katie," who is married to Jerry Gingras, operate Bear Country Power Sports, a nearby separate business. Gingras competes successfully in woodsmen's events.

Cote has worked in a family business for a long time, he said, starting in 1982 at P. L. Cote. "P" stood for his mother's name, Pauline, and the "L" for Luc.

Cote also runs an online company, Percy Flies, started in 1888, that employs 20 workers in Kenya, Africa. He believes it is the oldest continuously operated fly-tying enterprise in the world.

That morning, outdoor enthusiasts bustled in and out of the store, including eight bicyclists and two guides from a Colorado-based outfitter, Timber Tours (www.timbertours.com), who had spent the night at The Balsams in Dixville. The cyclists were on a 440-mile-long trip, starting in Plattsburg, N.Y., and ending in Bar Harbor, Me.

Workers who are building the Granite Reliable wind farm sites in Millsfield and Dixville, including those doing the blasting and other construction projects, stopped to pump fuel into their vehicles and to but snacks, food, and soft drinks.

Burton and Bass had spent the night at Tall Timbers in Pittsburg. Congressman Bass' was accompanied by two top aides: Washington, D.C. chief of staff, John W. Billings, and his Concord-based District Director, Matt Hagerty.

Varney Smith
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