By Rick Samson, Coos County Commissioner, District Three

The current ATV controversy is threatening not only the future of ATVs in upper Coos County but also the future of snowmobiling here as well. The misinformation, rumors and attitude of those promoting both sports and ignoring the problems associated with both will not solve the economy or promote those sports.

I have attended several meetings where both sides have said they are willing to work together to resolve the issues at hand. So far, I have not seen any indication that those promoting the ATV side are willing to sit down and have an honest conversation and work with anyone that is asking for honest dialogue.

Instead, the North Country Chamber of Commerce has done just the opposite. It appears that the chamber has hired a public relation firm to write letters for them that use tactics that most North Country residents have not been exposed to. The residents do not understand the strategy being used to promote an unhealthy ATV environment.

This issue should not be “ an us-verses-them issue.” It should be an issue where ALL should be willing to have an honest, open and constructive dialogue. Until that happens neither side will win, and not only the sport but our residents will lose valuable credibility.

The chamber's executive board has and is lobbying against most of the current bills before the Legislature. I have attended two meetings where members of the chamber's executive board have presented copies of these bills stating that the chamber is opposed to the bills and saying that they need to be killed. Does this represent the entire chamber or just the executive board? Has every member been asked if they support this movement? Has the chamber worked this hard to promote the businesses of all of its members?

Most of the complaints and issues being raised by the residents are not only real but issues that if not addressed and solved could threaten the future of the ATV industry here in the North Country.

The $100,000 that Polaris donated to the area, and the North Country Chamber is to administer would buy a very large number of trail signs. Perhaps some of that money could be used to lease rights of way to put trails in the wilds instead of on town and state roads.

It took the snowmobile industry, clubs and landowners many years to get where they are today. Cooperation, hard work and honesty were key elements that has made snowmobiling the positive economic benefit that the county enjoys here today.

The ATV issues will not be reasonably solved until those lobbying for the ATVs admit they have harmed residents rights and way of life. Only then will we be able to work together and fairly and reasonably solve these issues .

It should not be an us-verses-them battle, but rather a collaboration on how can we all work together to solve all these issues and safely promote the sport for all our residents.

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