ATVs and vehicles are sharing at least a mile of pavement in Greenville, and many local residents like the results: more visitors to downtown businesses and improved economic activity in the Moosehead Lake Re-gion’s largest town.
In October 2008, Greenville selectmen approved establishing on a trial basis an ATV trail extending from Breton’s Store in Greenville Junction east on Pritham Avenue (Route 15) to a turnoff that accesses a municipal parking lot near Flatlander’s and Jamo’s Pizza. The trail does not extend to the Lily Bay Road intersection a block east.
According to Ken Snowdon, president of the Moose ATV Riders Club, no trail connected ATVers passing through Greenville Junction with Greenville businesses farther east. The Moosehead ATV Riders maintain approximately 90 miles of trails radiating north to Beaver Cove, south toward Abbot, west “almost to [Lake] Moxie,” and northwest to East Outlet on Moosehead Lake, he said.
Three years ago, Snowdon proposed creating a trail along Pritham Avenue to connect with an existing ATV trail near Breton’s Store. Assisted by Wayne MacArthur, Snowdon “did a lot of politicking” by meeting with local businessowners and Greenville selectmen. The proposed trail also required multiple meetings with Maine Department of Transportation officials.
The approximately one-mile trail is open 8:30 a.m. to dusk, May 15-Nov. 15. Signs placed along Pritham Avenue stress that ATVers must use the travel lanes, not the paved shoulders. According to Simko, ATVers must ride single file and obey the posted 25-mile-per-hour speed limit.
Described by Simko as an “access trail,” the new trail connects Pritham Avenue businesses with the Depot Street trail head in Greenville Junction. Before the trail opened, “there was zero ATV traffic” east of the junction, Simko said, but he soon noticed “parties” of ATVers using the trail in summer 2009.
“My perception … is those numbers have increased this summer,” he said. Local businesses reported increased ATV-related activity, an eco-nomic factor that played a key role when the trail came up for review last spring.
A consensus “seemed to be building” to close the trail, recalled Bob Hamer, the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The Chamber supported the trail because that one-year ex-periment showed how successful it was.
“We thought it was very important [that] we hold onto that trail,” Hamer said.
Fifty businessowners petitioned selectmen to place a straw poll on the ballot for the June 2010 Greenville town meeting. “The poll barely passed” by six votes, Hamer said, but recognizing the results, selectmen voted on July 7, 2010 “to make the Pritham Avenue trail permanent unless major issues arise,” he said.
“A rash of incidents” could lead to trail closures in intown Greenville, Simko stressed.
He indicated that with the Pritham Avenue trail, ATVers still could not directly access businesses along Moosehead Lake Road (Route 15) and Lily Bay Road nor cross either artery to reach ATV trails farther east. After discussions with MDOT officials and local businessowners, Greenville selectmen approved a second trail for “a one-year trial basis” on July 7, 2010.
This trail “comes down the perimeter trail through the woods,” Simko said, referring to an existing trail that passes south of Greenville. The new trail connects to Lakeview Street at Eveleth Hill; signs direct ATVers to a mandatory left turn onto Route 15 and then north along Lily Bay Road to a mandatory right turn onto Foss Street. From there, ATVers can reach a Scammon Road clubhouse shared seasonally by the Moosehead ATV Club and the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club.
The new trail, which bars left turns onto Pritham Avenue, provides “residual benefits” for “some businesses along Lily Bay Road,” Simko said. “We will evaluate it (the new trail) after a year as a town.”
Municipal and ATV club representatives have worked closely to educate ATVers about the two new trails. “It is a struggle to make sure” that ATVers obey traffic laws, Simko indicated. “They aren’t always sure where to go intown, especially when they’re coming in from the Junction.
“We’re helping those considerate ATV riders who want to know where to go,” he said.
According to Snowdon, ATVers and motorists are sharing the intown roads safely so far. “The biggest prob-lem we’ve had is the ATVs doing the [25 mph] speed limit, pissing everybody else off because they’re used to doing 30 to 40 [mph] on Pritham Avenue,” he said.
Trail supporters encourage Greenville residents to report illegal behavior. “Some tickets have been issued,” and Greenville police officers have spoken with other ATVers about riding limitations, Simko said. “The rider has to recognize that ‘just be-cause I can doesn’t mean I should go there’ on a machine that can go about anywhere.”
Moosehead ATV Club members, who have passed out maps to ATVers using the two trails, “have put a lot of effort into this,” he said. Snowdon recalled that when he and other club members passed out information sheets to ATVers last Memorial Day weekend, they counted hundreds of ATVs coming into Greenville.
Among the volunteers erecting signs along both trails this summer was Ev Hayes, who with his wife Judy owns Northwoods Expressions in Greenville. Members of the local ATV and snowmobile clubs, they own two Arctic Cat ATVs.
Also a Greenville reserve police officer, Hayes discussed sign designs with Simko, Snowdon, and Greenville Police Chief Jeff Pomerleau. The Hayes designed and produced the signs, which Ev Hayes and Pomerleau installed on the new intown trail on July 27, 2010. Hayes and Snowdon developed the Depot Street trail head signs.
“We’re in a trial phase with the signage to see what will work,” Hayes said.
“There is enough signs out there [in downtown Greenville] that if someone can’t see the signs, they’re not looking,” Snowdon said.
“Greenville welcomes ATVers,” Simko said. “That’s the reason [that] the whole business community has been behind this. They know the ATV clubs want to access all points around the lake. Some businessowners are ATV riders.”
“We have been strong supporters of bringing ATVing into this region” for the last five years, Hamer said. “It has a six-month season. There are many more ATVs sold in Maine than snowmobiles,” and “ATV trails are much less expensive to maintain than snowmobile trails.”
“ATVing is a sport,” Simko said. “It’s infrastructure. We are in the same place with ATVing where snowmobiling was 20-30 years ago. The ATV clubs are working with pri-vate landowners and the state to develop a trail system.”
No ATV trail currently connects Greenville and Kokadjo on the east side of Moosehead Lake. North of Greenville Junction, the trail extending to East Outlet connects with the Rockwood and Jackman trail systems.
“Bingham, Jackman, Rockwood, Millinocket: other towns are allowing ATVs everywhere,” Hamer said. “One goal is to expand the trail network north from Greenville to connect directly with Kokadjo.”
ATVing “is an economic lure,” he said. “Like all of Maine, this area is suffering from the economic down-turn. We need to take advantage of our natural assets.”
“It’s going to take time” to develop a regional ATV infrastructure, Simko said. “People need to be patient.”