GREENVILLE, Maine — The Greenville Board of Selectmen is expected to make a decision at Wednesday night’s meeting on whether to allow ATVs to use more public roads in the community so they can connect with the Moosehead Lake region’s trail system easier.
The board vote tonight will probably be close, based on minutes from a public hearing held on the subject Dec. 4.
Selectmen Richard Peat, Craig Watt and Bruce Wyman spoke in favor of giving ATV riders permission to use more town roadways while board Chairman Bonnie DuBien and Bruce Hanson oppose it.
The town’s first ATV access route opened in October 2008, said Town Manager John Simko, “and I don’t recall seeing or hearing about any serious incidents.” But Simko, an active outdoorsman, said he understands both sides of the issue. “When you allow ATVs on public roads, you have to consider that they’re not bound by the same rules as passenger or commercial vehicles.”
All-terrain vehicle riders, dealers and repair shops generate an estimated $220 million a year in the state, according to ATV Maine. There are 83 ATV clubs in the state with approximately 8,000 members. But off-trail access remains a sticky issue.
According to state law, an ATV can only use a public road for “the distance necessary, but in no case to exceed 500 yards … for the purpose of crossing a public way, bridge, overpass, underpass, sidewalk or culvert.”
However, municipalities can designate a public way as an ATV access route, if the Maine Department of Transportation determines that the four-wheelers won’t interfere with vehicular traffic.
Greenville’s current ATV access route starts from a trail ending near Breton’s Store in Greenville Junction, down Pritham Avenue to the municipal parking lot next to Flatlander’s Restaurant and Jamo’s Pizza.
Dr. Ken Woodbury, the community development director for the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, said that ATV traffic has increased enormously since access to downtown was opened. “Ask any downtown business about the value of ATV trade,” Woodbury said. “Jackman and other towns that attract outdoor recreation visitors open up their downtown streets to ATV traffic.”
Woodbury, who lives in Greenville, said that tourism is the town’s largest industry. “We need to encourage and promote tourism if Greenville is to be able to offer jobs,” he said. “Otherwise, it becomes a small town for rich out-of-area retirees who already have their money and want to enjoy our natural beauty in solitude.”
Moosehead ATV Club President Ken Snowdon has requested that selectmen create an additional ATV access route on Lily Bay and Scammon roads, connecting Foss Street to the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Clubhouse, and also open the main intersection in downtown Greenville to ATV traffic.
The board voted 3-2 to have the town notify abutting landowners on the Lily Bay-Scammon roads route of the proposed change before they take a final vote tonight. But permission to let the vehicles go through the downtown intersection appears to be off the table.
Snowdon said that while he preferred that the board pass “the whole package, anything is an improvement,” Snowdon. “But now they’re asking residents on Pleasant Street if they want to allow access up there. It only takes one abutting landowner to shoot it down. I’m disappointed that they didn’t make a decision at the last meeting.”
The Moosehead ATV Riders maintain approximately 90-100 miles of trails from Beaver Cove, south toward Blanchard, west to the Lake Moxie area and northwest to the East Outlet on Moosehead Lake.
Woodbury pointed out that grant money has also helped build trails from Pittston Farm to Greenville and the link from Beaver Cover at the Prong Pond trail head to Kokadjo. “PCEDC wrote an RTP (recreational trails program) grant for Greenville for nearly $35,000 to actually build the ATV trail. That was completed in July and has been very popular,” Woodbury said. “It’s called the ‘missing link’ trail because ATV riders haven’t been able to get through Greenville to connect Pittston Farm with Kokadjo until now.”
Other communities have had similar requests for ATV access on public ways, but at least one took a different approach.
Bingham has a written agreement with the local ATV club — Moose Alley Riders — “that stipulates what trails they can use that are town roads and the duration (of the usage),” said First Selectman Steve Seward. “It also states that we can withdraw the permission at any time if need be.”
But Seward said the town hasn’t had to take action against users who didn’t follow the rules — the club beat them to it. “Actually, the only time they lost access was because the club closed down the trail because of some abuses,” Seward said. “It reopened shortly thereafter. I believe that once the club showed it was serious, the ATVers in the area learned a lesson.”
Tonight’s Greenville Board of Selectmen’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.