OHRV network to offer new trails, as Ride the Wilds set to offer more choices
By JOHN KOZIOL
Sunday News Correspondent | August 16. 2014 9:00PM
A visitor at the recent Jericho ATV Festival in Berlin gets ready for a demo ride on the extensive OHRV trail system at Jericho Mountain State Park. The popularity of OHRV-ing has exploded in the North Country at venues such as Jericho Mountain and the Ride the Wilds trail system. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)
In 2013, Ride the Wilds had $35,000 available for promotion, which Harry Brown, president of the New Hampshire Off Highway Vehicle Association, said was a "drop in the bucket" compared to the $750,000 spent annually by the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia.
Since the shuttering of paper mills and other manufacturing facilities in the North Country in recent years, many have turned to OHRVs as the region's next economic engine.
For its part, the state purchased the land in Berlin that became Jericho State Park which, among its other attractions, is a playground for a variety of motorized vehicles - snowmobiles in the winter and OHRVs in the spring, summer and fall.
Although Brown said he was aware of some illegal off-trail riding, he said it was not occurring anywhere near the network.
Communities decide how much access they want to give OHRVs. Berlin opened every road in the hope riders will spend money on food, gas and other amenities within Berlin.
Keeping neighbors and landowners happy is a priority, said Brown."Without the landowners, there is no trail system and if people do not respect the landowners' generosity to allow the trail to go through their property by staying on the trail, that's how you lose it," he said.
Two bills Hassan is expected to sign will help make the network safer by raising and lowering speed limits for OHRVs. On public roads, the speed limit for the vehicles will be raised from 10 to 20 miles per hour, while on logging roads, the speed limit will drop from 45 to 35 mph.
The network is on a five-year plan to address problems before they become larger problems, he said. Plans are underway for network-wide signage and the installation of 15 emergency kiosks. Brown said the discussion has also included providing additional hotel beds for visitors and developing after-riding activities for them.
Although there were about 24,000 OHRVs registered in the state in 2007, that number dropped to around 18,000 between 2011 and 2013, before coming back up to 20,927 in 2014, said Wimsatt. That said, from last year, when the Ride the Wilds network opened and continuing into this year, Fish and Game has added new responsibilities, but with less revenue than seven years ago.
A portion of every OHRV registration fee goes to Fish and Game, Wimsatt said. Most goes to the Bureau of Trails, which then grants that money back to OHRV clubs to maintain trails.
Because of the network, Wimsatt said Fish and Game needs three more conservation officers in Coos County. He said the agency will do what it can with the resources it has, especially to curb off-trail riding.