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More in News
ATV battle getting ugly
PARIS — An ongoing issue related to ATV use on Parsons Road has led to bickering among town officials, entrenched positions among citizens, and the threat of a lawsuit.
ATV rider Cliff Goodwin, who has been active on the issue, says that he will file a lawsuit against the town if officials improperly fail to restore ATV access to the road.
His son, John Goodwin, says that a lawsuit from his father wouldn't violate a previous assertion that the X-tra Mile ATV Club (XMAC) would not take this battle to the courts.
"The club won't sue," said John Goodwin. "But an individual will, if he feels it is illegal."
The issue of whether ATV riders should be allowed to ride on the extreme right of a public road should be clear, but much of the debate has been focused on relatively minor details and verbal gaffes.
Jim and Paula Hakala, who purchased a house on Parsons Road in order to enjoy the peace and quiet of the rural setting, dispute assertions from the XMAC that the road access allows it to connect two existing trails.
Jim Hakala says that comparing the trail maps of the XMAC and the Oxford Trail Ryders demonstrates that the trails do not, in fact, connect.
"Look at the maps and you can see what I mean," said Hakala. "I just put two and two together."
For his part, John Goodwin says that the two trails are, indeed, connected by the road, and that the clubs are empowered by the state to define the trails.
Another fact in dispute is how many people on Parsons Road support or oppose ATV traffic on the road.
For months, XMAC members have framed the issue as a single oppositional homeowner superceding the will of more than 100 homeowners, who had not raised objections.
That assertion is debatable. Last summer, the XMAC distributed notices to 112 homeowners on the five roads on which it sought access. Of those 112 households, only a handful came forward and, at one point, the Hakalas were the only people actively opposing the town ruling.
The remaining homeowners have not generally come forward, which is different than saying that they actively support the ATV trails that run past their homes.
Jim Hakala recently disputed that claim at a board meeting, where he said that six of nine residents on the paved portion of Parson's Road are opposed to ATV traffic.
"I may be the only one standing up for our rights and privileges, but I have others behind me," said Hakala.
XMAC members figure the number differently. Of the six homes (in which the nine taxpaying residents live), ATV traffic goes past only four of them. Of those four homes, the XMAC says that two house ATV owners, and the resident of a third is supportive of their issue.
The attitudes of the exact number of residents, and the precise layout of the trails are not of interest to the general public, but the broader issue, of ATV access on public roads, threatens to impact everyone's lives.
XMAC members have also considered backing candidates for the board in June, based solely on their position on ATVs.
The issue has become a matter of grave importance for those at the center of the conflict.
The Hakalas, supported by other homeowners on Parsons Road, have been vocal about the stresses that they associate with the town's summertime decision to allow ATV traffic on the public road past their home. They claim that physical pains, sleepless nights, and a dramatically reduced quality of life can be pinned on the ATV traffic.
The Goodwins, supported by dozens of enthusiastic ATV riders, have laid out thousands of dollars to purchase ATVs and create a working trail system that is dependent on ATV access to Parsons Road. Father and son, who each suffer from disabilities, claim that ATVs are one of the only forms of recreation they can enjoy, and that a January decision to revoke access to Parsons Road has dramatically infringed on their right to ride.
The hard stances have filtered up to the board of selectmen, where the most recent vote on the issue split them in a 3-2 decision.
Selectwoman Jean Smart and Selectman Ted Kurtz recently sparred with each other in an email exchange about the issue. As is the case with the details debated by the Goodwins and Hakalas, the arguments were focused on issues other than whether ATV use on public roads is desirable.
Smart, who voted against the ATV usage on Parsons, charged that a meeting between Kurtz, who voted for it, and three ATV enthusiasts in Kurtz's office was "highly unethical."
"Ted, your suggesting they meet with you in your law office, the result of which was to give them advice and to broker a legal opinion on their behalf through MMA (the Maine Municipal Association) is unconscionable," wrote Smart.
Kurtz responded that "the suggestion that a Selectman cannot properly talk with citizens about anything, let alone a current issue before the town, is preposterous."
Smart said that "Despite any boundaries you may feel you put around your actions, you have given the appearance of representing them about a legal issue."
Kurtz responded "My actions might appear that way, but only to a person who is incorrigibly non-objective, or to someone who intentionally closes her eyes to the facts."
The board will hold its next meeting on Monday, February 28 in the Paris Fire Station, at which it plans to identify questions to pose to the MMA.