GREENVILLE, Maine — Eking out a living as a business owner catering to tourists in the Moosehead Lake region in a depressed economy is a trying proposition, but one made worse when the weather is uncooperative.
With fewer visitors to the region last summer and over the mild winter, business owners are looking to the all-terrain vehicle traffic to help them bridge the financial gap so they can continue to provide jobs for local residents.
Toward that end, a petition signed by about 50 business owners asked selectmen Wednesday to keep the temporary Pritham Avenue all-terrain vehicle trail as a permanent trail. As requested by the petition, selectmen voted to conduct a straw poll on the matter at the June referendum.
Until then, selectmen agreed to reopen the trail on May 15 pending the straw vote.
“It’s very, very difficult to be in business in Greenville, it’s extremely hard because you basically can pay your bills [only] three months out of the year,” business owner Patty White said Thursday. “The rest of the time, you know, it’s a commitment to the community to be here,” said White, who with her husband Steve White, co-own Windowbox, a Pritham Avenue gift shop that’s open all year.
Last year, town officials, with the Department of Transportation’s approval, set up a temporary all-terrain vehicle trail from Greenville Junction to the downtown on state-owned Pritham Avenue. The trail was designed to fill the gap until a new ATV perimeter trail was completed. That work is under way.
The temporary trail, however, has worked so well and has helped the survival of some businesses that the business owners want to see both trails in operation.
Bob Hamer, executive director of the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, told selectmen Wednesday that new visitors who use the perimeter trail will not know that some of the businesses exist because the new trail will skirt a section of the downtown.
The requested change did not set well with Selectman Alan McBrierty who said the initial agreement between the town and all-terrain users was that the Pritham Avenue trail would be a temporary trail. An agreement is like a “handshake,” you stick to it, he said.
Hamer said it wasn’t until after the trail was in place that businesses found the temporary route so desirable. He said agreements are sometimes changed if the circumstances warrant it. He said the businesses were not demanding but were asking for the change.
That change, if embraced by residents in the straw poll and approved by selectmen, will not create a liability problem for the town, according to Greenville Town Manager John Simko. The town is not liable should an all-terrain vehicle accident occur along Pritham Avenue. because it is a state road and the state has sanctioned its use, he told selectmen Wednesday.