Off-Road Series

Credit Sara Plourde for NHPR

Off-Road: The Impact of Motorized Recreation in the Granite State  

A years-long effort by both state and local tourism officials is making New Hampshire's North Country a destination for ATV riders.

While some see promise in this growing group of tourists, others worry that the region might be losing something else along the way.

This series from NHPR's newsroom will look at several aspects of motorized recreation in the Granite State, from pushback from locals, to increasing concerns about safety, to the economic impact on a region of the state long-defined by its loss of the paper mill  industry and high unemployment rate.

One of the biggest selling points New Hampshire uses to promote ATV riding is that it’s something the whole family can enjoy. But as the sport grows in popularity, health and safety officials are growing concerned – saying the state’s laws are ignoring the serious danger these machines pose to kids.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Local economies don’t turn on a dime. When a factory town loses its factories, and workers lose their jobs, it can take decades for a community to get back on its feet.

That’s been the reality in places like Berlin and Gorham: two former paper mill towns in the North Country now trying to reinvent themselves.

Businesses, officials and residents are hoping that ATV tourism can provide a much-needed financial boost. 

Chris Jensen for NHPR

These days in Gorham and lots of other towns throughout the North Country, it’s not unusual to see caravans of ATVs (shorthand for "all-terrain vehicles" and "utility vehicles," which are often larger with multiple seats) all over. They're parked at the local gas station, in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, and zipping down local roads.

This is the result of a years-long effort, by both state and local tourism officials, to make northern New Hampshire a destination for ATV riders. While some see promise in this growing group of tourists, others worry that the region might be losing something else along the way.