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With Harry Brown, president of the New Hampshire Off Highway Vehicle Association, riding alongside her, Gov. Maggie Hassan pilots an OHRV Thursday morning in North Stratford where minutes earlier she signed into law several ATV-related bills and officiated at the opening of a second north-south connector in the Ride the Wilds trail system. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

Gov. Hassan signs ATV bills, opens new North Country connector trail

NORTH STRATFORD — A year ago, she oversaw the opening of the Ride the Wilds off-highway recreational vehicle trail system.

On Thursday, Gov. Maggie Hassan was back in the North Country where she did the ribbon-cutting honors for a critical north-south connector trail.

The connector between Lancaster and Colebrook will allow OHRV riders to travel from Lancaster to Pittsburg without trailering their machines. It also represents, as Hassan and several speakers said during a ceremony near Burns Truck Stop, the rapid growth of Ride the Wilds.

Hassan called Ride the Wilds “an economic engine for our state,” a great example of a public-private partnership, and proof of “how in New Hampshire we get things done.”

The fact that Ride the Wilds could go from concept into an active and expanding trail system in three years, was “impressive,” said Hassan.

Chuck Henderson, on behalf of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, said the North Country is becoming known as a “world-class destination for OHRV-riding, while Jeffrey Rose, the commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, noted that despite its rapid growth, the OHRV industry has more growing to do.

The state is now “at the beginning of something that’s going to put Coos County and New Hampshire on the map,” Rose said.

Assistant Department of Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney said there were many dignitaries at Thursday’s ceremony, adding that lest he offend them all, he would only recognize the most important.

“Hi, kids,” Sweeney said to students from the nearby Stratford Public School, who came to watch the proceedings.

The students, said Sweeney, represent the future of Ride the Wilds and OHRV riding in New Hampshire. He added that getting used to the ubiquity of OHRVs will require “patience and courtesy on everyone’s part.”

Glenn Normandeau, director of the state Fish and Game Department, urged local riders to set examples for visitors, particularly in regard to riding on private property, which is where most of Ride the Wilds is located.

“Those private land owners,” said Normandeau, just as they helped make possible the Lancaster-Colebrook connector, “can make or break this entire effort.”

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