HOULTON – As they push forward with an effort to make certain parts of the community more accessible to ATV enthusiasts while also preserving neighborhood tranquility, town councilors decided recently to pursue funding to build a bridge across a portion of the Meduxnekeag River to connect more ATV riders to local trails.
The board voted unanimously during its meeting to apply for the $10,000 grant to fund the bridge project. The endowment is being offered by the Polaris ATV T.R.A.I.L.S. grant program.
For more than a year, the town has been working with the Aroostook Riders ATV Club on a plan to make the town more accessible to ATV operators.
There are numerous ATV trails on the outskirts of town, and sometimes operators must ride a short distance on public roads to reach a trail. Under state law, a registered ATV driver may not exceed a distance of 300 yards on a public way.
The limit means riders sometimes cannot get from their homes to nearby trails legally, nor can they always legally reach area restaurants and gas stations by ATV.
Riders have stressed that the town would benefit economically if they could ride to restaurants and stores.
Some residents objected to the idea of having more ATV traffic in town last year, however, expressing concern about safety, speeding riders, and noise.
Little agreement was reached until last fall, when the club proposed designating Hidden Road and Access Road as ATV access trails. The move would make a portion of the business community more available to riders by helping them get to stores, restaurants and motels on North Road.
Hidden Road is not open to the public, and Access Road is home to a veterinary clinic but there are no residences on the street.
The club also expressed interest in building a bridge from Hidden Road or Access Road across the Meduxnekeag River so ATV riders and snowmobilers can access a trail on the opposite side of the river.
A short time later, town officials began working with the club to secure grant funding to pay for the project.
If the club wins the $10,000 bequest, the money would help them make their dream of building the bridge a reality.
“This is one of many grants that we are going to apply for,” Town Manager Douglas Hazlett told councilors during the recent meeting. “We would not be required to contribute any matching funds if we win this grant.”
The bridge would belong to the ATV and snowmobile clubs, he added, and the town would not be responsible for maintaining it.
The town should find out if it won the grant sometime next year.