BERLIN — Jericho Gateway Family Campground received site plan approval last week to create an event center as Phase II of its campground development.
At its monthly meeting June 1, the planning board also approved the site plan for a small seasonal UTV rental business on Jericho Road.
The campground plans to host the Androscoggin Valley ATV Invasion on July 30 and 31. The event, featuring mud pit races, an obstacle course, rally race and concert, is expected to draw 5,000 to 8,000 ATV enthusiasts. It is being organized by the Androscoggin Valley ATV Club.
Campground owner Bruce Luksza said he hopes to host a couple of other events at the campground as well this summer.
To accommodate those events, Luksza presented the board with his proposed site plan showing the event area, emergency responder staging area, event parking, vehicular traffic emergency exit and exits for non-emergency traffic. He said event organizers will have to get the needed local permits and coordinate coverage with police and fire departments.
Jon Rokeh of Rokeh Consulting said N.H. Department of Transportation has approved the main entrance to the site and it is largely constructed.
DOT has also approved a secondary entrance, which will provide the campground with a lot of capacity. The event area is located on top of a small hill, allowing for 360 degree views. Luksza said the view from the field are so spectacular that he will keep it as an event center for weddings and similar events. But he said he still plans in the future to build a “Berlin Thunderdome” in a lower corner of the property for ATV shows.
Luksza said he hopes a lot of the ATVers will stay at the campground but said there will be parking for those not staying there.
Earlier this year, the planning board approved Phase I, authorizing Luksza to develop as many as 100 campsites on the 300-acre property. He reported the campground was busy this Memorial Day weekend.
One abutter suggested the campground ask DOT to reduce the speed limit on that section of Route 110 to slow traffic down.
Luksza said he plans to ask the police to run some radar checks and said that should help slow traffic.
Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme read a letter submitted by Robert Chapman in support of Luksza’s campground. Chapman, who owns considerable land on Route 110 near Jericho Park, said he believes the campground is good for the Route 110 corridor. But he asked the Luksza help promote responsible use of the trail system and urge riders to remain off private lands.
Luksza said he has talked to both N.H Fish and Game and the Trails Bureau about promoting responsible use of the ATV trail network in the North Country. He is promoting signage urging ATV enthusiasts to ride on authorized trails and stay off private land that is closed to the sport.
“We support only safe riding,” he said.
The board also approved a site plan for Jonathan and Carolyn Sapienza and Jericho Adventures.
The couple are setting up a rental business for UTVs or side by sides at 111 Jericho Road.
Representing the Sapienzas, Bill Davidson of Hoyle, Tanner & Associates said they will start off with eight UTVs, and will be open Thursday through Sunday, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
He said the site plan is pretty simple. Davidson said the couple has applied for to the N.H. Department of Transportation for a driveway permit. Planning board member Ted Bosen asked about training for inexperienced drivers.
Jonathan Sapiena said they will have to watch a 15-minute video first.
Carolyn Sapienza said they will also make sure new drivers are acclimated to the machine. She pointed out the drivers have to be 18 to rent one.
Bosen said he rented an ATV before purchasing one and suggested a video is not sufficient.
Carolyn Sapienza said as a small business they have time to focus on their customers and make sure they are familiar with the UTV before letting them go off on one.
Board member Tom McCue asked about signage, especially for left turning traffic.
The Sapienzas said they were willing to install signage.
Board Chair Lori Langlois asked if the couple planned to install lighting but the couple responded they are only open until 7 p.m. and will be closing in October so they do not believe lighting will be needed.
Laflamme said one abutter had raised concern about the business expanding and advised the pair that if they expand beyond 16 machines, they will need to go back before the board.
The planning board approved the site plan, conditional upon receiving a driveway permit from DOT.