SKOWHEGAN — There are no trails or roads in town that are open to all-terrain vehicles, but town officials took action this week to change that.

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen gave preliminary approval to ATV access on certain roads.

The local ATV club, the Skowhegan Stumpjumpers, had lobbied for permission for ATV access in two primary areas of town: One extending from downtown to the northern portion of Skowhegan, and the other in an area on the south side of town, connecting the general area of Bigelow Hill Road to the Fairfield and Norridgewock lines.

The intention is to connect ATV riders to trail systems in Fairfield and Norridgewock, while increasing traffic to downtown businesses in Skowhegan, according to Stephen Gould, president of the Stumpjumpers.

“Right now, there’s 82,000 registered ATVs in the state,” Gould said Tuesday. “That’s a direct correlation to $700 million of income, so we will hopefully be able to take some advantage of that.”

Todd Smith, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he has heard from ATV advocates that for the first time, ATV registrations have surpassed snowmobile registrations in Maine.


“If Skowhegan wants to prosper from the growth of this sport,” Smith said, “we need to be able to include trail access here.”

He said several Skowhegan businesses, including restaurants, breweries and movie theaters, could benefit from ATV users riding through town.

Gould said other towns in the region, such as Bingham, Kingfield and Solon, have benefitted from allowing ATVs on their roads.

Several Skowhegan residents, however, expressed concerns Tuesday about public safety.

Bev Fitzsimmons lives on Bennett Avenue, one of six roads ATVs would be allowed to use. She asked the Board of Selectmen to consider a curfew on ATVs because there are several elderly people and young children who live along the avenue.

The other roads that would be open to ATVs are sections of Russell Road, Pleasant Street, Burrill Hill Road, Bigelow Hill Road and Old Route 139, which on some maps is considered an extension of Bigelow Hill Road.


David Larkin, who works at Bigelow Brewing Co., said he is concerned about ATVs on the south side of town because the area already tends to have a good amount of commercial traffic.

“It’s frightening. There are blind corners (on Bigelow Hill Road). There are way more pedestrians than there used to be,” Larkin said. “These are difficult things to negotiate for people that travel them every day. I think when we add ATVs onto that road, it’s a real safety problem.”

But one ATV enthusiast with a club in Kingfield said all-terrain vehicle riders in that town often help calm traffic because motorists are apt to slow down when approaching ATVs on municipal roads.

Town Manager Christine Almand suggested an amended motion stipulating that approval for ATV access only be granted if the town first passes a revised traffic ordinance to ensure road safety. She later told the Morning Sentinel she hopes to have the language for such an ordinance written in time for the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

The board agreed on a preliminary curfew of 10 p.m. for ATVs to be off town roads, and directed the Stumpjumpers to create signs for roads, agree on speed limits and consider how to ensure ATVs are properly registered and inspected.

“We need to make sure things are (in order) before we cut that ribbon,” Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam told club members.

Gould said Wednesday he hopes ATVs will be able to travel on roads on the south side of town by the end of May, but gaining access to the north side is expected to take longer.

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