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Thetford Continues ATV Restrictions

Thetford — Thetford will continue to restrict use of all-terrain vehicles on its unpaved roads to older and disabled residents and to landowners tending property under an ordinance that the Selectboard recently renewed.

The board first opened the town’s Class 3 and 4 roads to those riders in the autumn of 2013, near the end of the permitted season of May 15 to Dec.-14. While the ordinance allows residents who don’t like the restrictions to petition for a special town meeting on the rule, no one did so before the March 7 deadline.

“We decided to (renew the ordinance) because it went into effect so late last year that we weren’t sure if there was adequate time in the year to really evaluate it,” Selectboard Chairman Donn Downey said on Thursday. “I believe two permits were issued.”

Until last year, the town prohibited ATVs on all town roads — from state-maintained Class 1 roads and Class 2 main thoroughfares to unpaved roads that the town maintains (Class 3) and that the town does not keep up (Class 4) — regardless of the driver’s age and condition.

In June, after several public discussions, the Selectboard voted, 4-1, to ease the restrictions for riders 65 and older, for those with physical disabilities , and for landowners “who attest in writing that their ATV use on town roads is for caretaking of property.” Such drivers may go no faster than 15 miles an hour, and first-time offenders who drive on Class 3 and 4 roads without a permit face a fine of $50.

Class 1 and Class 2 roads remain off-limits to all ATVs.

While the Selectboard pondered how much to loosen the rules last year, ATV enthusiasts advocated for a more liberal policy, and landowners who had experienced problems with ATV riders trespassing and roaring through quiet neighborhoods described the ordinance as a worthy experiment and compromise.

Selectman Mike Pomeroy, who cast the lone dissenting vote in June, said Thursday that he voted this past January to renew the policy to test its effectiveness.

“I still think it’s too stringent, but some (permission to ride) is better than none,” Pomeroy added. “At least we have something in place.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com at 603-727-3304