China town meeting, ATV trail discussed by select board

by Mary Grow

The first of the China select board’s May 22 public hearings, a repeat hearing on the June 13 town business meeting ballot (see the May 11 issue of The Town Line, p. 2) drew no interest at all.

The second hearing, on allowing about two miles of Pleasant View Ridge and Bog Brook roads to be used as an ATV trail, elicited half an hour’s discussion among a dozen residents, Four Seasons Club officers and board members.

Club President Thomas Rumpf asked China select board members to approve ATVers’ use of the road sections to create a loop trail between southeastern and northeastern China while the Beaver Trail is being repaired. Currently, only a single trail is open; two-way traffic is less interesting to riders and harder on the trail, Rumpf said.

Residents’ comments were almost evenly divided between supporters and opponents. The main objections were based on safety. The two roads have many hidden driveways, curves and blind spots, and car and truck traffic is heavy and fast, residents said.

They were also concerned about increased noise, and about potential liability if there were an accident. Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood said under Maine law, the town would have no liability.

Supporters cited the value of ATVers to the local economy. Several said some ride the roads anyway, illegally.

Rumpf said if the proposal were approved, the roads would be heavily signed to warn motorists to watch out for ATVs. The ATVs would use the same travel lanes and obey the same speed limits as cars and trucks.

In response to questions, he and Darrell Wentworth, a Four Seasons Club officer and a Maine ATV instructor, said ATV drivers must be at least 16 years old; they are taught to use hand signals to indicate turns; their machines must have headlights and taillights and cannot – legally – have modified extra-noisy exhaust systems.

Rumpf had checked with other towns where ATVs share roads; the main problem they reported he summarized as “rowdies.” There was general agreement that a minority of ATV riders – and of car and truck drivers – will violate laws.

Rumpf intends to do his best to ensure the Kennebec Sheriff’s Office and local game wardens patrol the area more frequently than usual.

During the select board meeting that followed the public hearing, board members discussed what they had heard and agreed unanimously to allow ATVs on the road sections for the 2023 season on a trial basis, subject to cancellation if there are problems.

Rumpf said the season begins June 1; road use will not be allowed until after club members obtain and post signs, later in June. The season ends Columbus Day weekend. Hours during which road use is allowed will be 8 a.m. to sunset, to avoid running in darkness.

Problems that might cause select board members to rescind the approval before the season ends include multiple complaints from residents or law enforcement or both, or an accident.


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