HINSDALE, N.H. — With temperatures warming up, people are raring to rev up their off-road vehicles and hit the trails.
But right now, riders can’t hit any trails because it’s mud season, and motorized traffic, which can damage soggy trails, is prohibited in April and May.
“People are anxious to get out,” said Jared Tier, membership coordinator for the newly formed Hinsdale Family OHRV Club.
On March 31, Tier posted on the Hinsdale Area News & Info Facebook page about a recent incident.
“Earlier this evening some of our club members saw four-wheelers heading over the power lines towards Old Chesterfield Road,” wrote Tier. “Members tried to catch up with them on the Old Chesterfield Road and Route 63 side to inform them that the trails are closed and that they were riding on private property but they were not able to catch up with them. The trails are closed and riding on private property is only going to hinder our ability to work with landowners to allow us to ride on their property.”
Riding on private property without permission can result in a $248 fine, wrote Tier.
“I’m disappointed people are riding when it’s mud season and the trails are closed,” Tier told the Reformer.
Riders not following the rules, whether it’s during mud season or on property that is chained off, has been on the rise over the past year, he said. Tier said the trend is related to a demand for off-road vehicles that has skyrocketed, which has to led to a lot of new riders who may not know all the rules.
“While some areas were definitely chained off, for the longest time people rode where they wanted and landowners didn’t necessarily care,” said Tier.
But last year, with more people hitting the trails, many of whom were not familiar with the area, some landowners decided they had enough and closed off access to their properties.
The members of the new club are hoping to rebuild those relationships so that the trails can be reopened, said Krystal Gaffney, president of the club.
“There’s a lot of us, people who are wanting to be members of this club who are residents of Hinsdale and other local towns, who want to see this club succeed,” she said.
Gaffney said the need for a local club became apparent when landowners started posting their properties off limits because of damage or people leaving behind trash. She also said some families are feeling uncomfortable due to the behavior of some riders.
“Nine times out of 10, everyone on the trail is great,” she said. But it only takes one rude rider, or a group of riders, to spoil it for everyone.
Thicket Hill Village, which has a campground where many off-road riders stay during their time in Hinsdale, and Pisgah State Park are connected by a powerline right-of-way. However, last year there was vandalism committed at Eversource’s transmission substation on Route 63. While the vandals weren’t identified, Eversource took this opportunity to remind riders that its powerlines are off limits.
“Due to a variety of safety and environmental concerns, we do not authorize ATV use on land we own,” wrote Eversource Spokesman William Hinkle in an email. “Under New Hampshire state law, ATVs and other recreational vehicles are prohibited from damaging wetlands, streams and other waterbodies — habitats that are often found in our [right of ways] and provide a home where many rare species thrive. The excessive use of ATVs in these areas can cause environmental damage, and it also poses additional risks such as spills or leaks from fuels or other damaging liquids. In addition, there are considerable public safety and reliability concerns posed by potential damage to critical electric infrastructure.”
Gaffney said the club is working on “out of the box” solutions to figure out how to connect Thicket Hill with Pisgah that doesn’t include riding on Eversource rights-of-way.
Tier said club members recently bushwhacked a new trail that is 300 feet south of the Eversource substation, giving people access to the park from the west.
However, more work needs to be done, said Tier, because that access point is on a corner, making the crossing dangerous. Fixing the chokepoint might require a collaboration between the new club and the MT Pisgah ATV Club, which maintains 20 miles of trails in Pisgah State Forest and 16 miles of trails on 675 acres around Thicket Hill Village.
“Currently there is no legal connector between Thicket Hill and Pisgah State Park due to lack of landowner permission and a safe road crossing on Route 63,” wrote Todd Page, president of the Pisgah club, in an email to the Reformer.
Page said the MT Pisgah ATV Club will gladly work with the Hinsdale Family OHRV Club.
“Or, for that matter, any other club in or around Cheshire County,” he said. “It is always in the best interest of our membership and their safety to work hand in hand with other clubs for the common goal of making trails safe.”
“It would be great if the two clubs could work together,” said Tier.
Gaffney said a local club has a role to play in protecting private property and making sure everyone is having fun and being safe on the trails.
“We are the eyes and ears who are seeing people on the trails,” said Gaffney. “Hopefully we can promote good riding and sportsmanship.
Gaffney said the members of the club want to be considered not just riders, but also stewards of the land.
“We are local landowners who want to take responsibility for the trails and we are here to do the work,” she said.
And riding should be family friendly, said Gaffney, who has a 10-year-old who rides his own ATV.
“We want it to be safe for him,” said Gaffney, who said it’s important to teach youth to respect the land and to ride with courtesy.
Gaffney said that while there are always going to be people who don’t abide by the rules, she hopes the new club can be a good influence, both on local riders and those who come from out of town to ride on the trails.
“Good riding is bringing people here and it’s also helping local business owners,” said Gaffney.
While you don’t need to be a member of any club to ride the trails in Hinsdale or Pisgah, said Gaffney, being a member gives people a voice, and dues can be used for signage and trail maintenance.
Tier said it’s also important for landowners to have someone they can talk to about the use of trails on their land.
“People are going to ride whether they have permission or not,” said Tier. “With a club, at least we can help educate people, not necessarily police it, but put up signs. Without a club, landowners might be on their own.”
The members of the new club include Vice President Jamie Hammond, Secretary Heather Jutras, Treasurer Sandy Howard, Trail Administrator Jason Wells and Trail Master Keith Gaffney. The club’s board of directors include Gary Cowan, Kyle Kondrat, Al Putnam, Kim Saunders and Jenny Wells.
To learn more about the club, visit the Facebook page of the Hinsdale Family OHRV Club.