ATV parking & trail access changes are working

Gorham town manager Denise Vallee reported at the June 14 selectmen’s meeting on a field trip she took to look an ATV signs with the state Trails Bureau and Department of Transportation officials. (Edith Tucker photo).

GORHAM — ATV traffic on Lancaster Road (Route 2) to the state-owned parking lot on the edge of the Presidential Rail Trail has been reduced substantially, reported select board member Judy LeBlanc at Monday evening’s biweekly meeting on June 14.

LeBlanc explained that she lives in the

neighborhood in which many residents have complained they are badly affected by ATV enthusiasts off-loading and re-loading their OHRVs and gunning their vehicles as they speed off to reach Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin.

Noise levels are also far less.

A short stretch of trail alongside the lot up the bridge that replaced the historic pony truss bridge was also paved by the state Trails Bureau, reducing airborne dust.

“Residents are happy with the change and the solution,” LeBlanc said.

The lot is now being used exclusively by bicyclists, hikers, equestrians, dog walkers and strollers, some of whom cross Route 2 to use the unpaved emergency road to the Gorham airport that boasts a bridge over the Moose River.

The state ATV parking lot created last year off Route 16 above the Black Trestle and new entrance to the OHRV trail system, plus the parking created for ATVs supplied by Northeast ATV Rentals near the cell-tower base not only address the problems at the Route 2 lot but have also those of Northeast’s Main Street ATV support facilities.

“It’s like night and day compared to last summer,” said chairman Mike Waddell.

He also reported on a field trip that he, LeBlanc, and planning board chairman Paul Robitaille took shortly after the ATV season opened on May 23 to get first-hand information.

The board remained cautious, however, in declaring victory over past problems, noting that it was still early in the motorized warm weather tourist season.

Additional outreach will also be made to the owners and managers of tourist rental properties to ensure that they can provide up-to-date information on what the select board hopes will be the normally used ATV route and parking lot on Route 16.

Town manager Denise Vallee reported that on Friday she and Craig Rennie, the new state Trails Bureau chief supervisor (who formerly worked for the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and began his new job on May 21), District I Trails Bureau supervisor Clint Savage of Gorham, and N.H. Department of Transportation Traffic Bureau Director William “Bill” Lambert rode around town in two ATVs to see and evaluate all the ATV-related wayfinding signs.

Looking at signs while seated in ATVs meant the foursome had the same perspective as will area visitors. A 12- by 12-inch sign, for example, is really almost unnoticeable, she said.

The Trails Bureau is going to try to come up with a sign symbol that’s easy for ATVers to spot, with the expectation that it could be used on all ATV trails across the North Country. The bureau is looking for an integrated signage system.

“We’ve been pushing for better signage for some time,” Vallee explained.

DOT is considering adding large painted directional signs right on the pavement of Route 16. Apparently, some drivers have headed north in the wide ATV corridor that was created last year on the southbound side, jeopardizing lives and limbs.

Gorham has received an additional $2,000 N.H. Fish and Game patrol grant to be added to the original $2,200 award.

Vallee also reported that townspeople have not understood that the outlet to Libby Pool is not functioning due to storm damage, making it, in essence, a great big mud puddle without any through-water flow.

Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stewart has applied for an emergency DES permit so that a temporary fix can be made, allowing it to be opened up for the summer months. No one should be swimming now at Libby Pool; its bacteria levels are not being tested.

Vallee also reported to the board that the three-day Fourth of July schedule is posted on the town website. Board members noted that townspeople seemed pleased the event will take place, considering it to be a “return to normalcy,” but they’re also happy about its being scheduled for fewer days.

Assessing clerk Michelle Lutz presented abatement requests that had been evaluated by KRT Assessors with whom the town has a contract. The select board voted to accept their all their recommendations: Denied abatements at both 9 Alpine St. and 2 Prospect Terrace; reduced the assessment by $39,600 at 26 Alpine St. where the assessors had previously been denied entrance to both buildings; and reduced the assessment at 26 White Birch Lane by $9,200 since the dwelling does not have a full foundation as the assessors had thought.

The board also acted on a three-part decision of the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals on a commercial property at 195 Main St. where Road Hawg BBQ Swine Dining is located: a refund including interest for 2018 of $4,974.90; a refund including interest for 2019 of $4,497.67; and a $3,949.40 abatement for 2020.

The board also considered whether or not to continue the moratorium on charging building permit fees on residential properties. Many homeowners do not realize that they should get a permit before undertaking remodeling projects, even if no fee is charged. Waddell pointed out that the planning board will discuss tonight (June 17) the new short-term rental ordinance which passed town meeting in March.

“These short-term rental permits and how we interact and collect them will come before us,” he explained. The board voted to leave residential building permits as is for now, with the understanding that all residential permits will be discussed, together.

Vallee also updated the board on the progress of the Main Street paving project. Its completion date has been changed to Thursday, June 24.

The work is expected to be done over four nights, rather than two. Traffic in downtown Gorham is much heavier than contractor Pike Industries expected.

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