Club leader: Ordinance would kill ATV access

Posted Feb. 22, 2011, at 9:43 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 22, 2011, at 10:37 p.m.
Eric Zelz | BDN

LINCOLN, Maine — ATV access to town merchants and to statewide trails would diminish significantly if town leaders OK a proposed ordinance, the town’s ATV club president said Tuesday.

“If you go by the ordinance as written, there will be no roads on which we are allowed,” said Henry Carey, president of the Penobscot Off-Road Riders ATV Club. “Between the roads that are named, and any roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or greater, that pretty much limits all the roads in Lincoln, as I read it.”

The Town Council will review the proposed ordinance during a public hearing on March 14. Councilors reviewed and seemed satisfied with the ordinance during their meeting on Feb. 14, offering no changes.

The ordinance would prohibit ATVs in areas where structures are less than 200 feet apart over a distance of a quarter-mile; on public roads with speed limits of 35 mph or greater; and on several roads where Public Works Department Director David Lloyd and former Police Chief Scott Minckler have said they would be a safety risk, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.

Those include Bagley Mountain, Phinney Farm, Town and Sweet roads; Buckley and Penobscot Valley avenues; and Frost Street, Goodwin said. Goodwin, Minckler and Lloyd wrote the proposed ordinance in accordance with Maine Department of Transportation guidelines and with direction from the town’s attorney and councilors, she said.

If the ordinance passes, it will play havoc with the club’s painstaking efforts to assemble its 68½-mile trail network, which plugs into statewide ATV trails and helps create a revenue stream for town merchants that rivals that found with snowmobiles, Carey said — except that ATVs can ride almost year-round.

The network depends on roadway access at several points to connect parcels of land where landowners have agreed to allow ATVs, Carey said. Those agreements often have been difficult to reach, and without them, many trails would be inaccessible.

“We are going to lose 20 percent of our trails indirectly or directly. That’s assuming that Half Township Road will be affected by the 35 mph speed limit,” Carey said. “We will lose 14.8 miles. Our trail grant reimbursement will drop by $1,000. This will knock us back to where we were six years ago.”

The club will hold a meeting on March 5 at VFW Post 1438 off Route 2 to discuss the ordinance. Carey invited residents and merchants to attend.

The proposed ordinance came in response to concerns by residents from several neighborhoods where ATVs have caused noise and safety problems, Goodwin said.

“The town would like them [club members] to work with landowners to keep the ATVs off the road to provide a safer way for them to travel rather than with the vehicles on the roadways,” Goodwin said. “If you secure trails that are off-road then you don’t have an issue.”

The club, Carey said, hasn’t heard of accidents or incidents involving ATVs in years.

Most accidents or incidents involving littering, unsafe speed or noise, Goodwin said, occur with riders who do not belong to the club.

“The clubs ride respectfully because they have taken the time to assemble the trails. They care about what they are doing,” Goodwin said, “but you have a lot of other people who don’t belong to the clubs who use the trails and they use those trails carelessly.”

The council, Carey said, needs to think of the local economy and how ATVs can boost it.

“The only way ATV business will come to Lincoln is on the back of a trailer or a pickup,” he said.

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