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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.

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