Council approves ATV travel route

10 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Getting around town got a bit easier for those riding ATVs on the west side of Presque Isle, following City Council’s approval of a travel route that will allow riders access to downtown and other destinations from Mechanic and Parsons streets, among others in that area.
City Manager Jim Bennett told councilors he’d been asked to “facilitate a meeting between the Star City ATV Club, the Maine Warden Service and local police to address the issue of ATVs being in the main part of downtown and other areas.”
“All three agreed there needs to be a long-term plan for crossing the Presque Isle Stream,” said Bennett.
Richard “Dick” Howlett, president of the SCATV, explained why a travel route was needed on that side of town.
“We’re trying to keep off Main Street. We have a trail east of Main Street that’s helped, but we need something on the west side of town. Bob Besaw, president of the Presque Isle Snowmobile Club, has talked about building (a bridge) across the Presque Isle Stream, using grants to fund the project, but you’re talking several years. We have a route that will avoid the five-way intersection and Main Street. What we need is about another mile and a half on the Chapman Road to connect to the trail on Chapman, which we’d sign with DOT-approved signage stating ‘ATV approved access,’” said Howlett.
Howlett said he and Kevin Freeman, owner of The Sled Shop on the Houlton Road, frequently get calls from out-of-town riders asking how to bypass the city.
“If they’re riding from Easton or Mapleton, for example, to get to our clubhouse they have to go all the way around Presque Isle to bypass the city … We have a route on the east side and would like to have another on the west until we can get the bridge built,” he said.
Bennett said part of the city’s strategic plan was “to find a way to get ATV traffic downtown.”
“The problem is a temporary issue with the stream,” said Bennett.
Councilor Bruce Sargent wondered if speed would be an issue, with Howlett noting riders would have to follow posted speeds. Howlett said the proposed route would take ATV riders through residential areas west of Parsons Street.
“When you come off the trail on Parsons, near the Shell station, you’d turn on Turner Street. It’s all residential. You’d go down State Street to Judd Street, then across Mechanic to Elizabeth Street, cross Industrial to Lenfest, then come down Exchange Street, then cross the State Street Bridge to Riverside, then onto Chapman. We had to come that way to eliminate the five-way,” said Howlett.
“That’s a long way around the barn to get around the intersection,” said Council Chair Emily Smith.
“It’s not a snow sled issue, just an ATV one. Snow sleds can cross the stream when it’s frozen,” said Bennett.
Sgt. Dan Menard, of the Maine Warden Service, said it may be the long way around but the route was necessary to avoid traffic lights.
“I know it looks like they’re going around Robin Hood’s barn, but it’ll take them out of the street light,” said Menard.
Menard said there will always be those who fail to comply with the law.
“In a perfect world, everyone would do as they should, but that’s not always the case. We’ll always have people racing down those roads and Matt’s (Chief Irwin, Presque Isle Police Department) people will have to address. We’ll do our best to enforce. The ATV club has stepped up and come up with a good solution; safety-wise it’s a short solution, but ultimately the bridge is the best solution,” said Menard.
Menard said when he’s talked to people on ATVs, their main concern was they didn’t know where to go.
“They won’t be looking to speed, they’ll be looking for how to get to the Pit Stop (on the Fort Road) or Kevin’s (The Sled Shop on the Houlton Road),” Menard said.
Bennett said this was about “opening businesses to ATV riders.”
Councilor Craig Green said “this is a tourism item for us and helps businesses.”
“People don’t want to get in trouble. They aren’t out there raising hell. We certainly want to accommodate them,” said Green.
Menard said this issue was unique to Presque Isle.
“The five-way intersection — I don’t know where the next one is. It’s a significant traffic issue. Let’s do this temporarily until someone screams ‘this is awful,’ then we’ll move to the next thing,” said Menard.
With discussion concluded, councilors voted unanimously to approve the proposed ATV road access route, which includes Chapman Road, Riverside Drive, the State Street Bridge and Exchange Street, as presented by the Star City ATV Club, provided proper signage is displayed.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 25, at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall, at which time councilors will be setting the mil rate.
Sessions are open to the public and participation is encouraged. For more information, call 760-2785.