PITTSBURG - The final pieces of the long-planned 1,000-mile interconnected all-terrain-vehicle trail through the North Country are being put in place, and the Ride the Wilds system is still on schedule for a June 15 opening at Coleman State Park in Pittsburg, according to state officials.
By that date, all portions of the interconnected trail system that extends into 15 Coos County communities will be open to riders, said Christopher Gamache, chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails.
"I think it's wonderful," Gamache said of the plan to open up so much of the North Country to uninterrupted ATV trails, the recreational opportunities that will result, and the economic benefit to North Country businesses that riders coming into the area are expected to bring.
Gamache acknowledged that not all New Hampshire residents are fans of ATVs, and criticisms of the sport include noise, crowded trails and the machines' impact on the environment.
"I understand not everyone supports it," he said.
But there were few discouraging words in Pittsburg earlier this month when New Hampshire Department of Recreation and Economic Development Commissioner Jeff Rose was among those who arrived for a meeting of the local Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Citizens Committee with a turnout of about 50 people.
Gamache was on hand, as well, and told the gathering that everything, including 8 miles of connecting trail on the nearby headwaters tract, was on schedule for next month's grand opening.
"The more we can do for this North Country, we should do it," said Burnham "Bing" Judd, chairman of the Connecticut Lake Headwaters Citizens Committee. His committee has actively supported the Ride the Wilds project.
The layout includes trails on the 7,500-acre Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin and the 8,000-acre Perry Stream Land and Timber Co. in Pittsburg.
Asked Friday about the total cost of the project, Gamache said that would be hard to calculate because the funding came from so many sources and at different times, and was targeted to develop particular sections of the trail.
He said some $2 million had been devoted to one portion, while two others came in at $330,000 and $310,000.
For example, a Trails Bureau grant of more than $60,000 went last year to the Metallak All-Terrain Vehicle Club in Colebrook to build trails in the Great North Woods that connected Gorham, Pittsburg and Colebrook.
That went a long way toward the total project cost of about $86,000. The specific use of the grant money was to build a trail system from Coleman State Park to the North Gate of the Balsams, and from Kelsey Notch, over Dixville Peaks, to Greenough Pond Road. Metallak club members provided a lot of volunteer labor on the trails.
The amount of work needed per section varied as well, Gamache said, with many miles of snowmobile trails being adapted for ATV use during warm weather.
"A lot of the trail goes through existing logging roads," he said, which reduced the need of the labor that's required for cutting new trails.
The Bureau of Trails is part of the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, and administers multiple-use trails on state, federal and private lands, according to information posted on its website.
Included in the bureau's management is 250 miles of wheeled off-highway recreational vehicle trails, over 300 miles of state owned rail-trails and 6,830 miles of snowmobile trails.