MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County officials are moving forward with plans to open up perhaps more than 50 miles of county roads to all-terrain vehicles.
Washington County commissioners recently voted 3-0 to move forward with the recommendation of Heron Weston, supervisor of the county’s Unorganized Territory.
Weston, who also brought the proposal to the commission for consideration at its August meeting, plans to work closely with ATV clubs and related organizations in order to get their comments before making final decisions on what roads would be opened up.
“I really like the idea [of involving the ATV clubs],” Commissioner Chris Gardner said.
An ATV organization brought the issue to commissioners several years ago, Gardner recalled. The panel considered opening up county roads at the time but decided to take a wait-and-see approach. Now, numerous localities have opened up their roads to ATV use, noted Gardner.
Although more than 50 miles of county roads may be eligible, it may not be suitable to designate every one of those roads, suggested Weston. For example, some roads may be short dead-ends, may not have any connection with existing ATV trails or lack the support of an ATV organization.
The 50 miles is a “very rough estimate,” Weston cautioned in an interview Tuesday.
“I’m a little hesitant to use that number,” he added.
He has not conferred with representatives of ATV clubs yet, said Weston, so decisions about what roads will be opened are far from final.
Most of the roads that would be eligible for ATV use are located roughly in the southeastern portion of the county, according to Weston. The area includes T-19, adjacent to and east of Wesley, and continues in a southeasterly direction. It also includes Marion, Edmunds and Trescott.
“There are not a lot of county roads up north,” explained Weston.
The county would seem to have plenty of ATV enthusiasts. For example, the Down East Sunrise Trail, an 85-mile multi-use trail that crosses eastern Hancock County and most of Washington County between Ellsworth and Ayers Junction near Pembroke, is popular with ATV users.
The trail, once a railroad bed, is overseen by the state Division of Parks and Public Lands. It is used by hikers, skiers, as well as people on ATVs, snowmobiles, bicycles and horses. The trail is supported by the Sunrise Trail Coalition, a nonprofit organization.
Weston was unsure how long the process would take or when the first roads would be opened up.