Greenville may vote on future of ATV trail

Posted Feb. 17, 2010, at 7:10 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Making visitors feel welcome in the Moosehead Lake region is what it’s all about in this gateway community. That includes adding amenities.

Those extra touches can entice more visitors to the region, and that in turn helps the local economy.

When all-terrain vehicle riders in 2008 requested access to the downtown, municipal officials, residents and the state Department of Transportation worked together to create a temporary trail from Greenville Junction down Pritham Avenue, a state-owned road, to the village.

That ATV trail, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to dusk May 15 through Nov. 15, is expected to be eliminated when a perimeter trail that skirts sections of downtown is constructed.

“We went out on a limb and tried it this past year and it did seem to work and work well,” Town Manager John Simko said of the temporary trail. “We have to be ready and able to try new things, and if they don’t work change them so they do work.”

The new trail has worked so well that some merchants who benefited from the traffic want the trail to remain in place even when the new trail is completed, Simko said Tuesday. While some riders were not familiar with the rules when the trail first opened, there have been few problems since, he said. To his knowledge, there were no reportable accidents or property damage involving ATVs on the route.

“Last year, it went very smoothly,” Police Chief Jeff Pomerleau said of the trail. The only recurring comment he heard was from drivers who were stuck behind all-terrain vehicle riders who were doing the speed limit, he said.

Simko believes the Pritham Avenue trail is likely the only state-owned road in Maine on which ATVs share the travel lane with other motorists. And the sport is catching on, he said, since more ATVs have been registered in Greenville in the past few years than snowmobiles.

To improve access for ATVs, the town requested a $17,044 recreational trail grant for the creation of the new perimeter trail. The project has the approval of the state Department of Conservation and is waiting for federal highway approval, which is expected in March, according to Mick Rogers, the department’s director of community recreation.

In a straw poll in November, residents by 2-1 said they favored creation of a perimeter trail, Simko said. What wasn’t asked in the straw poll was whether voters also favored keeping the Pritham Avenue route, he noted.

Bob Hamer, executive director of the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is working with the local ATV club on the issue.

A proposal will be submitted to selectmen to get a straw vote on the June ballot, he said Wednesday. That straw vote will likely ask residents if they support the continuation of the Pritham Avenue trail even with the new perimeter trail.

There are some businesses along Pritham Avenue that saw significant increases in business this past year because of the ATV traffic, Hamer said. With the perimeter trail, those businesses will not be accessible to ATV riders, he said.

“We’re hoping we can have both trails and try to put the majority of the traffic on the alternate trail and those people that want to access downtown Greenville use Pritham Avenue,” Hamer said.

Simko said it was his hope that the municipal officials and everybody involved would remain open to trying different things for recreation throughout the year.

“I think that’s been a big part of why the town of Greenville opted to try this for past year. We wanted to try to be welcoming to visitors across the four seasons,” Simko said.

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