State, residents agree on plan for ATV access route
CROSS LAKE TWP, Maine — State officials appear to have quickly come up with a solution regarding all-terrain vehicle access along a stretch of Maine Route 161, following a meeting with local residents.
“When I came up here today, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out,” State Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, told the nearly 20 residents gathered at the Cross Lake Senior Center Thursday evening.
Jackson said he was pleasantly surprised to see that officials from Maine’s Department of Transportation and Bureau of Parks and Lands had worked out a proposal that allows continued use of what has only been an informal and unauthorized ATV trail.
A little more than a month ago, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife posted the two-mile corridor with “no access” signs. The department’s Game Wardens enforce state ATV laws.
At issue is a stretch of trail used to travel from the north end of Cross Lake to where Maine Routes 161 and 162 meet. The throughway connects two sections of authorized trail, but is itself not an approved route for ATVs.
Rep. Danny Martin, D-Sinclair, who organized the meeting with Jackson, described the meeting and the on-the-ground visit by state agency officials as a fact-finding opportunity. However, a solution was apparently worked out that very day.
Tom Desjardins, director of Parks and Lands, said the main concerns with the trail were its potential impact on the highway’s surface and substructure, and the safety of ATV riders and highway drivers.
“DOT wants to keep ATVs a minimum of three feet away from the edge of the asphalt,” said Desjardins. This prevents deterioration of the pavement itself and reduces impact to the ballast or substructure of the road.
The trail in question is, for the most part, far enough away. However, Desjardins said there are several places where riders have been traveling too close. By installing signs directing users further away from the road and educating riders, Desjardins said the problem could be solved.
“You can start using the trail again today,” he told attendees. For safety reasons, though, ATVs may only use the access route along the highway during daylight hours.
A key part of the plan, in addition to signage, is to have all the users on board and following the requirements. Parks and Lands will create the new signs and DOT will install them, according to Desjardins.
The designation of the trail segment as an approved ATV “access route” will require a local ATV club to take responsibility for it. In this case, the Sinclair ATV Club must agree to the arrangement.
Brian Brinson, who heads up the ATV program at Parks and Lands, said club leaders have indicated to him that would likely not be a problem, although they will take a formal vote. No club representatives attended Thursday’s meeting.
In the meantime, officials with DOT accepted the plan as outlined and riders may once again use the trail.
“I think we can make this all work,” Martin said.
The Sinclair club, which maintains miles of unauthorized trails in the area, has declined in the past to oversee the access trail alongside Route 161, mainly due to the cost of purchasing and installing signs, Bronson said. Desjardins estimates the total cost of installing the signs to be about $2,000.
Desjardins warned that if ATV riders once again travel too close to the highway, travel on or cross the asphalt, the trail section would be closed again.
Game Warden Adrian Marquis said that his agency has directed him to ticket anyone not following applicable ATV laws in the area.
“I have never had any problems with any of you,” he told those gathered. He commented that users from outside the area will need some education on how to use the new access route.
Ideally, those ATV riders using the local authorized trail system will stick to those more scenic trails, rather than use this access route, which is mainly used by local residents as a shortcut to get from their homes and camps to those authorized trails.
The state oversees approximately 21,000 miles of recreation trails, according to Desjardins. He said the bureau partners with many ATV and snowmobile clubs around the state to provide quality recreation experience for users.