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ManchesterMoves group says it can deter dirt bike riders

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 08. 2012 9:40PM

MANCHESTER - Leaders of the group promoting development of a series of recreational trails on former railroad beds through the city say dirt bike riders on the trails is a temporary problem that will be resolved.

Members of ManchesterMoves say they are aware of the issues and will move quickly to stop any disruption felt by residents.

A neighbor of the group's Rockingham Recreational Trail, one of four under development, complained last week about vandalism and a proliferation of loud motorized vehicles using the trails near his properlty.

But activists with ManchesterMoves say that sort of nuisance comes only for a brief time during one phase of the work, and they work to prevent or eliminate the distraction.

ManchesterMoves is working to convert abandoned railroad rights-of-way into an interconnected series of trails for jogging, biking and other activities.

Jessica Chambers of the city's Parks Department says the complaints came during a brief period when the revitalized trails are briefly attractive to fans of all-terrain vehicles or dirt bikes.

As railroad ties and brush are removed by volunteers, the once inaccessible paths come within easy reach of rider and machine. The newly exposed surface provides the bumping, twisting, turning rides that enthusiasts seek.

'Once a smooth surface treatment is in place, they are no longer desireable for those activities,' Chambers said. 'Dirt bikes don't like smooth roads, they like bouncing; there is no excitement on a smooth trail.'

In many cases, say the ManchesterMoves activists, it takes relatively little time for residents to recognize the improvement to their neighborhoods.

'The Piscataquog trail is an example of a trail that was abandoned and became a trap for garbage - a swampy area with debris everywhere,' said Dean Williams of ManchesterMoves.

As the group started its work on that trail, abutters came forward with worries about what was to come.

'As the trail was built, they changed their minds,' Williams said. 'More people were talking about desiring neighborhood access to trails.'

The most publicized complaint about activity on the trails came this month about trucks, motorcycles and other noisy activities on the Rockingham trail.

ManchesterMoves volunteers believe as the work progressed, the motorized access not only became less attractive, it became close to impossible.

'The city is going to be doing some additional clearing and some fine grading and gravel placement on the Rockingham trail,' Chase said. 'Once the trail is developed with a compacted surface, it won't be worth their trouble if they find a way in and see it won't be fun for them.'

Finding a way in for vehicles will become more difficult, as boulders, guardrails and other barriers limit access to walkers, joggers, bikers and others seeking more fitness-oriented recreation.

'We are sending a message that we are watching and we are aware and that activity should disappear,' Chambers said.

But William Trombly, the neighbor who complained to the Union Leader about noise and trash on the Rockingham Recreational Trail, isn't quite as optimistic as Chambers.

He said he was disappointed to learn there won't be trash barrels because he isn't convinced people will take their trash with them.

And noise continues to be an issue. Trombly said he counted more than a dozen dirt bikes on the trail next to his home the weekend after the story appeared May 26.

While most roared right through, he said one young dirt biker was apparently intimidated enough by his appearance on the trail that the biker left the trail for a block to detour around Trombly. 'I could hear the neighbors yelling at him,' said Trombly.

While he agrees that paving the trail will likely reduce its use by dirt bikers, he said a smooth surface will make the snowmobilers even happier.

But given the city's financial situation, he said: 'I don't think it's going to happen in the near future.'

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