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Fort Frontier ATV Club Seeks

Expanded Trail Access in Town


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 31, 2018


   At their January 17 meeting, the Fort Fairfield town council heard comments from Fort Frontier ATV Club president, Ken Stratton regarding a request to increase access to ATV trail heads within town.

   Stratton told the council that the club would like to increase trail access beyond the current 1500 foot limitation on Forest Avenue. He also indicated they would like all in-town side streets, and Main Street, opened up to ATV traffic for the purpose of legally accessing trails from locations within town limits.

   “Right now it's basically 'he said, she said' to behave yourself, do the speed limit and no one's going to harass you riding down the street to get to the trail.  I think it should be in writing,” Stratton told the council.  “I think we should change our ATV ordinance to include that so that if some new game warden or new cop comes into town that we have somewhere in writing that we are allowed to be on these side streets.” 

   The club is asking for 1.1 miles of access through the residential area of Forest Avenue, from Bradley's Car Wash down to just before the Lion's Club.  “We spoke to all the farmers and land owners there and got their okay to go up from King's Castle all the way down to Bryant Pond.  Right now, and the way it's been for years and years and years is folks were just riding their ATVs all the way down Forest Ave - almost three miles - to get down there through that curvy area, through a 45 mile per hour zone,” said Stratton.  “It just makes sense to shorten that to 1.1 miles with 25 percent of it in a twenty-five mile per hour zone.  Warden Dudley agrees with me 100 percent.  He feels it would be much safer than people illegally continuing to go down Forest Ave.  If we don't give them some way to do it, they're going to continue to just ride down Forest Ave.” 

   Stratton's goal is to make Fort Fairfield an “ATV-Friendly” community.  “We're asking Fort Fairfield to consider doing like a lot of other towns in the state of Maine, they're basically opening up all their side streets and Main Streets to ATV traffic to get to the businesses to spend money.  We have garden tractors with snowblowers, we have lawn mowers/garden tractors going all throughout town, we have heavy duty equipment and horse and buggies.  What's the difference with an ATV being within the town limits?”

   “Horse and buggies and tractors don't go sixty or seventy miles per hour,” retorted town councilman, Mitch Butler.  “I'm not saying this is a bad idea, I'm just throwing this horse and buggy thing out so we're not comparing apples and oranges.  If it's going to help the community and stuff like that, I understand what you're saying but when you sit there and start comparing lawn tractors; I've lived in town most of my life and I haven't seen too many lawn tractors go up and down Main Street so I don't need that comparison.  What I want you to show me is how it's going to help the ATV club - which I'm all for - and how it's going to help the businesses out and maybe there's a route that can be made around the back streets or something like that you know to stop the Main Street part of it.  It's no problem, I think it's something we could address and look into in my opinion.  That's just my opinion.” 

   The limit on Forest Avenue is 1500 feet to Main Street, which means an ATV owner on Forest Avenue can legally travel to Main Street via ATV, but those who live over 1,501 feet can't.  “If they're going to head south to go to Easton or Presque Isle, they're going to go down Forest Ave. anyway, rather than take forty-five minutes to go all the way around the D.O.T., energy plant, K-Pel, all that way.  They're just going to take ten minutes and go down Forest Ave. anyway.  Which is why I spoke with all the landowners between Main Street and Bryant Pond Road.  I've got permission, I just need a way to get from Main Street to the Lion's club,” said Stratton.

   Town councilor, Melissa Libby commended Mr. Stratton for his efforts but indicated her concerns about opening up all side streets versus certain select areas for access to the trails.

   “There are a lot of safety concerns about opening that up too much,” said town councilor, Jason Barnes. “I agree,” said Libby.  “I think a specific route and access to businesses on Main Street but I don't agree with opening up all the streets.” 

   “We're not saying to let people ride around the block and tool up and down Main Street, we're talking for the sole purpose of getting to and from the trails,” reiterated Stratton.  “So, if law enforcement sees someone going up and down and up and down the street they should give them a ticket but if they're on their way to the trail then they can do it legally.  Like I said, I'd love to have it in writing in an ATV ordinance like the other towns.”

   “I think with the right communication and the hard work ahead of us I think that we can probably make this work, in some ways,” said town councilman, Bob Kilcollins.  “It may not all happen overnight, but I think that between the State and locals and towns and even other communities supporting, I think you're on the right track and I think we can  make a good part of this work.”

   The council directed the town manager and staff to move forward on studying the feasibility of the request.   “We'll get with the other communities, get with the Warden's service, the State and bring something back to the council in February that details where we're at, what the different laws are, if there are ordinances different than what we're looking at so you can have something to make a decision on,” town manager, Jim Risner told the council.