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News from everywhere *but* Central New Hampshire.

Stark Weighs Banning ATVs From Local Roads

Chris Jensen, NHPR

Just a few years after opening up local roads to ATV traffic, residents of the town of Stark are debating whether to reverse course. A warrant article up for a vote at tomorrow’s town meeting would close local roads to off-road vehicles beginning in mid-April.

Stark is somewhat unique in that nearly all of the 11 miles of its so-called ATV trails are actually roads. Local ATV clubs are concerned that shutting those down would cut off a key trail connector between major corridors of the state’s Ride the Wilds network.

Stark town constable William Joyce is behind the push to close down local streets to off-road vehicles. As the town's chief law enforcement officer, he's on the receiving end of all kinds of complaints about noise, dust and occasionally reckless ATV riders.

“There’s always a few that wreck it for everyone else,” Joyce said, “discourteous, littering and speeding.”

It’s a lot to keep up with without a full-time police force and limited state help. (Though Joyce does appreciate the assistance offered by New Hampshire Fish and Game; but they're stretched thin for officers, too.)

“It’s kind of a crazy situation where the legislature passed a law that allows a town to designate a road as a trail — there’s a big difference between a trail and a road,” Joyce said. “They’re on the road.”

Even if it doesn’t pass, Joyce hopes the warrant article will help spur a conversation about balancing the growth of ATV use with the rights of local residents.

Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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