July 13, 2020

Houlton seeks additional funds for ATV, snowmobile bridge

HOULTON – An effort to secure funding to build a bridge that will give ATV and snowmobile riders additional access to the town while also giving local restaurants and gas stations better access to their business is gathering steam in the community.

During a recent Town Council meeting, the board approved the submission of a grant application to the 2006 Bureau of Parks and Lands Recreational Trails Program. If the money is secured, the potential purse of more than $100,000 will help construct a bridge across a portion of the Meduxnekeag River that could be used both by ATV and snowmobile riders.

This is the second such grant that the town is hoping to obtain to complete the project.

For more than a year, the town has been collaborating with the Aroostook Riders ATV Club on a plan to make the town more accessible to ATV operators.

Several ATV trails are 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 restriction 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 local businesses.

Some residents objected to the idea of having more ATV traffic in town last year, expressing concern about safety, speeding riders and noise.

A possible solution was etched out last fall, however, 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.

The club also expressed interest in building a bridge from Hidden Road or Access Road across the Meduxnekeag River so riders can access a trail on the opposite side of the river.

Hidden Road is not open to the public. Access Road is home to a veterinary clinic, but there are no residences on the street.

Last month, town officials began working with the club to obtain money to pay for the project, and have already approved the submission of a $10,000 grant application to the Polaris ATV T.R.A.I.L.S. grant program.

Town Manager Douglas Hazlett told the board that the latest grant would be the most beneficial in making the bridge project a reality.

“This will not require any matching funds from the town,” he said, adding that the matching funds would come from the clubs and other grant money, as well as through in-kind labor. “This is the grant that will be the most important to allow the bridge to be constructed.”

The bridge would belong to the ATV and snowmobile clubs, he continued, and the town would not be responsible for maintaining it.

The town should find out if it won the grant sometime next year.

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