Opinion: In Favor of Littleton/Bethlehem Rail Trail

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Cherry Pond, on the Presidential Rail Trail, in Jefferson, NH


Recently, I read a letter from a writer in Easton, N.H. that was given the weight and exposure of a Front-Page Column. I read the letter/article and became quite frustrated.

Why do I say that? First anyone aware of the trail being proposed in Littleton/Bethlehem knows it is on a railbed that has not been used since the mid-1990s (94-96). The railbed has been used in the years since for snow- machines in the winter. The railbed and rails would need a large amount of work to restore it to train use.  Thus, a train would not haul freight profitably on this track.

The current railtrail from Littleton to Woodsville is used by ATVs, walkers, pedal bikers and horse riders. It is well maintained by the ATV clubs. In the nine years I have ridden my bicycle on this trail NEVER have I had a bad experience with an ATV rider. They have always been courteous and safe. I have never owned an ATV so this is my experience with them.

Another trail I ride my bike on is the Presidential Rail Trail from Whitefield to Gorham. No ATVs ride this trail. The maintenance of this trail is sporadic, most summers a part of the trail in Jefferson is un-rideable after the first week of June. This is due to high grass and ticks.

In my view most problems with ATVs in Coos County have been the growth of the sport. I would say one trail in Gorham was poorly placed on a rail bed, too close to homes. The last time I was in Gorham that part of the trail is now closed to ATVs. In other parts of the county, a few riders have given the sport a bad name. 

I remember when snow-machines first started being in the back woods in the 1960s. Much of the same issues of noise and trail use were experienced by landowners. The club system addressed most of the concerns and the sport grew to levels we see today.

Both snow-machines and ATVs provide a large amount of the revenue to local economy of the North Country. Far more in Coos where there are only two major ski areas, both of which are owned by large multinational corporations. The profits of these ski areas are not shared locally like they once were. Someone only has to drive in Twin Mountain and see the out of business inns, stores and restaurants. Then you witness the impact of the all-inclusive resorts.

Living here in the North Country is hard. To try to define and deny people a way to earn a living, then further demanding that it alone (North Country) submit to a set of solutions for a global problem is both careless and presumptuous.  

My grandmother would say that’s being a poor neighbor.

InDepthNH.org takes no position on this issue or politics but welcomes diverse opinions. email nancywestnews@gmail.com

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