BERLIN, N.H. — For Larry Burt, half the fun of riding his ATV around Jericho Mountain State Park is getting lost.
With his two teenage sons, Burt, a 54-year-old dentist from Scituate, Mass., gets up to the state park in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods several times a year, twisting and turning his vehicle along rocky gravel roads, logging trails, through woods, mud and streams. He sees the stunning White Mountain views — then figures out how to get back down.
“You can’t do that in your car,” he said. “That place is expansive. It amazes me how good the trails are.”
The four-year-old park, the state’s newest and the only one being developed for ATVs and snowmobiles, has about 50 miles of trails now, with state trail workers and ATV club volunteers working to cut more this summer and fall. The goal is more than 130 miles of trails for the 7,200-acre park, the only one of its kind in New England.
New Hampshire has more than 700 miles of trails for ATV riding — more than 500 of them in the Great North Woods region. Most of the trails are on private land. State officials and ATV clubs hope Jericho Mountain State Park can be part of an overall trail network allowing uninterrupted driving in the north.
The state is holding its first ATV festival at the park the weekend of July 10-11. For the first time this summer, the park is connecting with a trail running through the nearby city of Berlin that leads to a pond in Success, about a 50-mile round trip from Jericho. State and city officials anticipate that will bring more visitors to the park and more revenue to gas stations, restaurants and other businesses in Berlin, which has been trying to reinvent itself as a recreation destination since it lost its signature industry — paper mills — several years ago.
A study on the economic impact of the park and surrounding trails hasn’t been done yet; a Plymouth State University Study in 2004 showed ATV and trailbiking travelers spent about $124 million in the state.
Peter terHorst, a spokesman for the All-Terrain Vehicle Association, an Ohio-based national membership group for ATV riders, said that in the western part of the country, most ATV riding takes place on federally owned land. In the east, where the population density is much greater and there’s much less public land, there are public-private partnerships for trail use, or arrangements like the addition of the connector trail through Berlin, to attract more riders.
“You see more innovative solutions developing,” he said.
Plans for Jericho Mountain State Park include a 200-site campground, a special junior trail for younger riders and a visitor’s center. Parkgoers also can hike, and swim, fish and boat in Jericho Lake, surrounded by birch and poplar trees. Funds for park maintenance and new trails comes from the federal highway bill, federal grants, state ATV and snowmobile registration fees and funds raised by ATV clubs, including the local Androscoggin Valley ATV Club, whose members help clear trails and build new ones.