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North Country

Looking For An Economic Boost, Colebrook Ponders Opening Streets To ATVs

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Chris Jensen for NHPR

Next month the town of Colebrook in the North Country is expected to take a big step in a plan designed to make the region more friendly to ATV-riding tourists, increasing the profits for local businesses.

At its January 9th meeting the Colebrook select board is expected to approve a plan that allows people to drive all-terrain vehicles on some of the town’s streets.

The idea is to make it more convenient for ATVers riding a newly expanded network of trails to stay and shop in Colebrook.

Selectman Bob Holt says that could be a good thing for the town.

 “We have a lot of merchants in the area right now that possibly aren’t doing very well with the present times. This can only be a plus. If the ATV industry grows like the snowmobile industry did it will be a major plus for the town of Colebrook.”

Currently ATVers trailer their machines to parking areas – usually way outside town – and then ride trails.

Getting to a hotel or restaurant means loading up the ATVs and more trailering.

And that’s not an incentive to stay or shop in Colebrook, says Harry Brown, a member of the Metallak ATV club which is behind the project.

“It is one of the negatives up here is that you can’t ride from where you are staying. You got to trailer.”

But that’s going to change, says Jules Kennett, another selectman.

“We are going to be user-friendly. We are going to give people from the south from wherever they come from a place to come and enjoy what we live in. And, we are going to support our businesses. In my opinion, this is a great thing for Colebrook and the North Country.”

Under the plan ATVers could take trails into town and then follow specially marked, less-busy roads to get around.

They would be required to stay to the far right of their lane and be limited to 10 miles per hour.

Holt and the other two selectmen held a public hearing on the proposal earlier this month.

“Our decision will be made on what we get for input tonight, so we’ll start the meeting off…” fades…

One or two residents raised several concerns--  like the safety of mixing motor vehicles and ATVs and whether the machines would be too noisy.

But selectman Holt says the board would keep an eye on that.

“The board also has the right to rescind anyone of these roads if there are problems.”

At the end of the meeting everyone there – about 80 people – raised their hands to show support for the idea.

The Colebrook plan is part of a much larger effort by the Metallak ATV Club that would link riding areas and trails so ATVers could go from Gorham to Pittsburg.

The club hopes to have the new network open this summer.

For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen

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