Henniker has debated a lot about ATVs over the years, and on Saturday they debated a lot more

  • ATV in Colebrook on June 30, 2018 Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2019 7:24:56 PM

In case there was any doubt that off-road vehicles are a contentious issue, consider a vote Saturday at town meeting in Henniker.

A warrant article about whether people supported continuing to allow ATVs to ride on some town roads produced the most discussion of the meeting’s 29 articles. It was decided by secret ballot because some people were worried about neighbors’ reactions if they voted by show of hands, and split pretty much down the middle: 71 voters said yes and 64 said no.

All that despite the fact that the article, submitted by petition, was non-binding – in other words, it had no legal authority.

Henniker has a history of being ahead of the curve in dealing with the issue of off-road vehicles, the source of debate in New Hampshire communities from the Massachusetts line to deep in the North Country.

“Henniker is considered by many the gold standard of OHRVs,” said Jennifer McCourt, a town resident who is treasurer of the New Hampshire Off-Highway Vehicle Association and a member of the Contoocook Valley ATV Club.

The town is unusual in having an ordinance that details which roads ATVs and other off-highway recreational vehicles can use, and for two years it has had an official OHRV Committee to handle disputes and help set guidelines. Despite that, it was clear Saturday that some residents aren’t happy with the number and behavior of four-wheelers riding on town roads.

“I urge the selectmen and the committee to sit on my porch on a Saturday. You might think again,” said Bob Lambert who lives on Colleague Pond Road, which is dirt. “We can’t open the windows because of the dust … I can’t walk on that road, it’s not safe.”

Supporters, however, urged Henniker not to be unfriendly to vehicles that have become a big part of the state’s outdoor recreation.

“They’re buying gas here, they buy food here. Henniker is an attractive place to bring your ATVs and spend money,” said Jay Noone.

Grace Cohen submitted the petition that led to the warrant article. Although Cohen herself would like to see ATV use curtailed, she agreed that the issue is complex.

“I wanted there to be discussion. It’s not a simple yes-no question,” Cohen said.

In other matters during the five-hour session, voters approved every other item on the warrant, including a $5.43 million operating budget that is about 6 percent above last year’s tally.

Several warrant articles supported the Tucker Free Library, which was named the Library of the Year in 2018 by the New Hampshire Library Trustees Association. That included a $227,000 operating budget, $6,000 to fix historic casement windows, and $70,000 to take the next step in design and planning for upgrades.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)




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