NEW HAMPSHIRE'S northernmost towns are in their second year of experimenting with allowing certain key sections of country roads to serve as links to create a huge circular ATV trail system surpassing anything east of the Mississippi. It is seen as a much-needed shot in the arm to an impoverished region desperate for income and jobs.
Allowing ATVs to use these town roads, as well as vastly improving ATV access to downtowns, has already made a huge economic impact, and entrepreneurs are setting up small (and some not so small) businesses to cater to this infusion of people and money.
But not everyone is happy about this relatively sudden onslaught of people.
Some are camp owners who had no real say in the town meeting votes to give this trail system a try. Some are homeowners who moved here to enjoy a house on a quiet country road and now feel like they're living alongside Interstate 93.
I've heard from a bunch of people who fit that description, believe me. They do not want to be identified because they know how important it is for this thing to succeed to benefit friends and neighbors, and they don't want to be seen as being against everything. But they are bitterly dismayed at being caught in the path of a juggernaut when they had been sure they could live a life of peace and quiet.
I know of one couple in a beautiful self-built home on an old town road that had hardly any traffic, since few people even knew where it was. At town meeting, voters authorized the opening of short stretches of certain back roads to connect trail systems, and their road was one of them. Suddenly, their dream home became, for them, a nightmare. These are warm and welcoming people, but they just could not stand it. The last I heard, they were moving to property they own in Vermont.
Another couple I know live in a really neat (as in "different") camp on a leased site near a logging road that saw only the occasional logging truck and a few canoe-carrying pickups. Now they see and hear ATVs all weekend long, a traffic flow that is certain to increase as schools let out and vacation time gets in full swing.
A key part of the trail system goes directly by my front lawn on South Hill Road in Colebrook. I've been watching things carefully ever since this trail trial balloon began floating.
I have an ATV, purchased years ago for farm work. I'm a founding member of the Metallak ATV Club, based in Colebrook, and I've volunteered to help out with trail patrol. Those seeking to create a gigantic circular trail system (meaning you could park and unload your rig in any of the dozen or so towns and extend your trip for as many days as you want and come right back to your vehicle) know that just as in the early days of snowmobiling, they must rein in law-flouting rogue riders or they will lose the support and commitment of landowners. And that will be it. Finis.
My experience with this whole thing so far has been positive. A few idiots have roared by here at better than 50, maybe 60, on a blind hill mind you, and I'm not kidding. But you get a few morons in any endeavor, and I'm not letting it sour my attitude. Yet I don't want my obituary to read that I was blind-sided by an out of control ATV while I was trying to get my tractor across the road.
Well do I remember scouting the area for building a log cabin to replace an old camp that was right on the a pond's shoreline and indeed is now gone.
Sandy Young, Don Tase and I had gone in on snowmobiles and snowshoes, trying to find the little hardwood knoll that Vickie Bunnell and I had flagged years before. We did, and lounged around there for a lunch break.
One of the other guys, I think it was Sandy, mused about whether the day would come when it would be impossible to get away from the sound of a gasoline engine, and I guess that day has just about come.
John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.