In The North Country, Another Town Considers Trying To Attract ATV Tourists

Mar 7, 2016

Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR

The Ride the Wilds ATV network covers about 1,000 miles in the North Country and now a new ATV group in Jefferson is looking at getting in on the economic action.

At a meeting last week, members of the Jefferson ATV club said a link to Ride the Wilds might draw tourists to local businesses.

But club president Roy Parkhurst said the first step was seeing how residents feel about the prospect.

“It is a proposal. There is nothing written in stone here. You people are going to decide whether we have trails in the town,” he said.

One goal is to persuade landowners to allow riding trails to be built around Jefferson to encourage tourists to stay in Jefferson – and spend their money there.

But there is also the hope that landowners will allow construction of a trail to Lancaster so ATV riders can connect with Ride the Wilds.

About 80 people attended the meeting. Concerns raised included noise and dust. Few expressed support for the idea.

Some worried that the club wanted to use the 18-mile Presidential Rail Trail, which runs from Jefferson to Gorham, where there is a connection to Ride the Wilds.

Walkers, bikers and equestrians all use that trail but motorized traffic is not allowed without snow cover.

Parkhurst said using the rail trail was not being considered and “wasn’t worth discussing right now.”

But a representative of another ATV club involved with Ride the Wilds - who helped Parkhurst with the meeting - acknowledged at some point using the Presidential Rail Trail would make sense.

Such an effort would almost certainly create the friction between those eager for an economic boost from increased ATV traffic - and those who argue locals and tourists want the traditional peace.

The state would have to approve use of the trail.

ATV club officials have said the Ride the Wilds has been successful in attracting tourists.

And jurisdictions including Colebrook, Berlin and Gorham allow ATV riders on some public highways  - for short distances - to make it easier to reach businesses.