Claremont Council Prohibits ATVs

Claremont — ATVs and other motorized vehicles will be prohibited from using the city-owned portion of the Sugar River Recreational Trail for the foreseeable future.

At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, the council approved a request from the Sullivan County ATV Club to use the city’s class 6 roads but took no action on a request for use of the rail trail, a 2.7 mile trail that runs from the new recreation center on South Street to the orange gate beyond Home Depot on Washington Street where it continues as a state-owned trail to Newport.

The council did, however, vote Wednesday to apply for a federal waiver that would allow motorized vehicles.

The city had been told by state and federal officials that a restriction in the grant received by the city in the 1990s to buy the former railroad bed and build the trail prohibits motorized vehicles.

For years the club, which maintains the trail and has received grants to make improvements, has been given council permission annually to use the trail beginning in late May. But a few years ago, resident Jim Feleen went to the Conservation Commission and pointed out what he said was a clear violation of the grant conditions. Eventually the state got involved.

The city claims the state and federal governments have not provided definitive proof of the ban, although the city can’t document that the original grant did not prohibit motorized vehicles.

Last month, the city received a copy of a letter sent to the state Department of Transportation from the New Hampshire Division of the Federal Highway Administration stating that motorized vehicles are not permitted on the city’s portion of the trail because federal money was used to build the trail on the former railroad bed in the 1990s. The letter cites Title 23 217(h) of the U.S. code, which addresses bicycle and pedestrian legislation. Section 217(h) prohibits motorized vehicles with a few exceptions, including motorized wheelchairs and for maintenance.

Mayor Jim Neilsen said Thursday the council was also concerned with liability issues if it allowed ATVs on the trail, without the proper approval, and an accident were to occur.