GORHAM — Assuming that the ATV season opens on May 23 as scheduled, ATVers will almost certainly be able to drive on Memorial Day weekend up Route 16 from the Route 2 intersection at the north end of town to an improved parking lot on Chip Bean’s property.
Town manager Denise Vallee at Monday’s select board meeting gave an overview of the progress being made to realize the town’s goal of developing an alternative route to join Main Street to the existing trail system.
“This is happening,” said chairman Mike Waddell, happily.
He praised the coordinating role the Gorham’s code enforcement officer John Scarinza has played.
The state aims to have the new parking lot ready to use at the start of the season, Scarinza said in a phone interview. It will rent porta-potties for the first season. If the volume of ATV traffic justifies it, permanent arrangements will likely be made, since both municipal water and sewer are available at the curb.
The selectmen authorized having town crew members rough out some of the needed work — rough grading plus some tree-cutting and brush pile removal — so that the state Bureau of Trails can bring both a bulldozer and grader to the site to level and lay gravel down on the lot’s north end, while protecting a drainage.
Plans call for some large on-site rocks to be moved in order to help direct all the vehicular traffic into safe, orderly patterns.
“I don’t want anything helter-skelter but to separate big trailers from ATVs,” Scarinza explained, noting the lot is probably some seven times larger than the controversial state-owned lot off Route 2.
Trailers will be pulled in and out of its more northerly entrance/exit, and ATVs will be driven in and out of the more southerly one, he said.
“I’m satisfied with the progress N.H. Trails Bureau Chief Chris Gamache has made in negotiating an agreement with Pike Industries to use the existing underpass under the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway as well as the trail route,” the CEO said. A ramp and new 1/8-mile-long trail must be constructed — almost certainly by a private contractor — that will connect the underpass to the existing through-rail-trail and the OHRV trails it carries.
Asked to comment, Gamache emailed: “We are finishing up the paperwork with Pike, but nothing is finalized yet.”
Then, writing as someone who has sometimes been disappointed when what appeared to be done-deals have fallen through, he slipped into using a double negative: “At this time, I don’t not anticipate having the alternate route ready for Memorial Day.”
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is preparing to put up new signs and to repaint the lines for a “road diet” on Route 16, designed to allow ATVs to use the highway and make it easier for north-driving vehicles to turn into the new parking lot.
“The work that we will be completing this spring is to re-stripe the segment of NH 16 from the traffic signals at Route 2 to the driveway of the former Shaw’s supermarket,” explained state Department of Transportation traffic engineer/administrator William Lambert, who works in Concord. “When complete, there will be one travel lane in each direction with a two-way left-turn lane.
“In some places, that will leave a wide shoulder on one or both sides of the travel lane,” he said. “We do not anticipate having to grind out existing markings, as we plan to paint over them with black paint or re-stripe with yellow. We also have some sign changes to make. The work shouldn’t take more than a day or two to complete.
“At this time, we are waiting for the shipment of the black paint, but we plan to have the work done in the next couple of weeks, but certainly by Memorial Day.
The required OHRV highway permit has been drafted and is now under review, said District 1 Engineer Phil Beaulieau, who is working remotely from his Lancaster office. “Both the NHDOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan as well as the Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn need to sign it,” he explained.
Lambert pointed out, however: “The ‘road diet’ can be completed independent of the OHRV issue, so it doesn’t affect our schedule other than the installation of signing specific to that purpose.”