LINCOLN, Maine — Area ATV clubs have extended one town trail but failed through a Town Council vote to make what they said was a crucial addition that would vastly expand and improve the town’s trail network.
The council voted 4-3 earlier this week during a meeting at Mattanawcook Academy to reject a motion that would have designated a half-mile of Bagley Mountain Road an all-terrain vehicle route for a six-month trial period for daylight hours only, with a 30 mph speed limit on the trail.
For the Dwinal Pond Four Seasons Club, which sought the designation, and the Bagley Mountain residents who opposed it, the debate was like a match between punch-weary boxers tired of the fight.
The residents objected to the club pressing once again for access to the road, and club members said they felt they had no choice because the road provides one of the few links to bridges over the Penobscot River and railroad tracks into northern and western areas critical to their expansion efforts.
“This [vote] cuts us off from the Katahdin region and the rest of our trails in Chester and Woodville,” Dwinal Pond club vice president Hubert Aldrich said after the vote. “Right now there’s no other way that we can get into those areas.”
Residents Gary Steinberg and Harry Epp were among several who argued that the trail plan was an ill fit for the road, a dirt connection that terminates at its northwestern end near Bridge Road, which carries over the Penobscot into Chester.
The road, they said, is about 18½ feet wide — too narrow for ATVs and other motorized vehicles to use. Allowing ATVs to use the road would threaten vehicle and pedestrian safety while kicking up dust, creating noise problems and damaging the pastoral quality of the area.
“Unless it can be improved, it should not be an ATV trail,” Epp said.
Other residents said they doubted that ATV riders would be safe.
ATV enthusiasts argued that Bagley Mountain is a rural road and not highly traveled. Most of their road usage would be, they said, on private property. They said ATV users are typically responsible and that ATV accident rates have remained steady statewide over the past three or four years despite a vast increase in the number of state-registered ATV riders.
They said that many areas reap enormous economic benefits from ATV trails and riders, but Lincoln’s financial benefits are largely limited to places such as Why Not Stop?, a convenience store and gas station on West Broadway that benefits from having a new ATV bridge near it.
Town Public Works Director David Lloyd and Councilor Thora House agreed with the residents. Car traffic on the road, Lloyd said, runs about 40 mph — too fast for safe ATV usage.
“I am an ATV rider, and I don’t think that these belong on a main road,” House said of ATVs.
Councilors voted 7-0, meanwhile, to support extending the club’s trail on Half Township Road by a 1 mile. This allows the area’s clubs to extend their town trails to the Lee line and into Lee.