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February 11. 2014 6:13PM

4x4 trail at Jericho Mountain will be first in state park

BERLIN — As soon as the snow melts and the mud hardens, work will begin to make “The City that Trees Built” the site of the first 4x4 trail in New England on state land.

Volunteers from the Milan-based North Woods Off-Road Club, under the auspices of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, hope by late May to begin cutting a 2.5-mile, gut-and transmission-wrenching off-road course in Jericho Mountain State Park.

Under a best-case scenario, the trail will be open by August, said Marc Pouliot, who founded the Milan-based NWOR in 2007. NWOR is part of the Northeast Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs which promotes environmentally responsible off-roading on private land, and has 29 members from Long Island, N.Y., to Maine.

Pouliot is a service advisor at an automotive dealership; his ride of choice is a 1991 Chevrolet Silverado that he said is definitely “not stock.” A year before starting NWOR, he was bemoaning with a friend the fact that the opportunities to use off-road vehicles within the Granite State were slim to none.

You can operate a 4x4 on your own land, Pouliot explained Monday, but you need written permission from the property owner to do so on someone else’s. If you go four-wheeling on a state-maintained All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trail and get caught, there’s up to a $10,000 fine, he said.

Pouliot briefly entertained the idea of building his own trail at Jericho Mountain, only to learn that the Bureau of Trails was already way ahead of him.

Located off Route 110 west of downtown Berlin, Jericho Mountain State Park was created in 2005 with the express goal of becoming the first network of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) trails on state land. The Bureau of Trails envisioned a place where ATVs, UTVs (utility task vehicles, small, four-wheel-drive craft with two-across seating for up to four passengers), mountain bikes, and snowmobiles could frolic. Also in the plan, said Chris Gamache, who is the bureau’s chief, was a 4x4 trail.

In 2013, the New Hampshire Legislature authorized the Bureau of Trails to build 4x4 trails at Jericho Mountain and to evaluate their success for three years. At the end of the evaluation period, the trails will either become permanent parts of the park or they’ll be shut down.

Gamache and Pouliot think the sole 4x4 trail planned for Jericho Mountain will be a big hit and are expecting it to draw both local and far-flung off-roaders who will spend money in Berlin and the surrounding communities.

Working extensively with the Bureau of Trails as well as the NH Department of Environmental Services to shape the trail, Pouliot thinks it will be respectful of the environment yet a hoot to drive on.

The trailhead will be off the visitor-center parking lot at Jericho Mountain. Except for the entrance and exit, the trail will be one-directional.

Pouliot said just like on a ski slope, a green circle will mark the easiest route, a blue square an intermediate one, and a black diamond the most difficult.

For safety, every obstacle, be it a hulking boulder or a tanktrap-like chasm, will have what Pouliot called a “go-around.”

Gamache said ATVs, UTVs and 4x4s could eventually have as much of a financial impact as snowmobiles. He noted that snowmachines, according to a study done two years ago by Plymouth State University, annually place some $586 million into the state and local economies.

jkozoil@newstote.com


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