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Resolution nears for ATV dispute
PARIS — It seemed like a day that might never come in Paris.
Leaders from both sides of a heated battle over ATV use on Parsons Road shook hands in front of the Paris Board of Selectmen last night, and indicated that both sides supported a proposal on ATV use that had been submitted to the board.
For several tense minutes, the contentious debate reverted to form, as ATV enthusiasts shouted during a heated argument with a board member, but a resolution was successfully brokered before the meeting ended.
John Goodwin, the trailmaster for the X-tra Mile ATV Club (XMAC), announced that, after repeated efforts over the past year, the group has successfully routed its network of trails in such a way that traffic will not go past the home of Paula and James Hakala, who have been vocal in their opposition to such traffic.
Goodwin asked for permission to use Parsons Road for one month while club members worked to prepare the new trail.
"We're in full support of their proposal," said James Hakala. "They gave us two choices, and we took the better of the two. ... This sounds like a good compromise. ... I would like to thank the board for listening to both sides."
The other option would have allowed the club to use a smaller portion of Parsons Road, for which it does not need town permission. In that scenario, it would have used the portion that runs past the property of the Hakalas.
Authorization requirements originally designed by the board to address these types of issues, however, threatened to torpedo the process. Goodwin threatened to back out of the deal after the board suggested that further consideration was needed. The board said it needed to approve an application before the X-tra Milers could utilize Parsons Road for the necessary month.
In April, the board created an application form for those seeking authorization for non-standard use of Paris public roads or property. Under its policy, any such request, including temporary ATV use on Parsons Road, triggers a process that includes mailed notifications to stakeholders, gathering input from the police department, and a public hearing.
"I just think for the benefit of everybody, we need to follow the policy of the board and not be slipshod about it," said Selectwoman Jean Smart, who has opposed ATV traffic on Parsons Road in the past.
Goodwin and his father, Cliff, loudly objected to the idea of delaying their trail work to wait for the process to be followed. The debate grew heated, with the Goodwins shouting and other members of the audience calling out comments without having the floor.
"I have an alternate route," said John Goodwin. "It doesn't affect any road usage at all. I don't need your permission. It brings me right in front of the Hakalas house. If that's what you'd like, I'll take that route tomorrow. The trail is all cut. It's ready to go. I need to spend no money. I'm trying to do the right thing and leave the Hakalas alone. I need 30 days to do it, and then they'll never hear from me again. Or I'll sign a five-year lease, and be right in front of their house for five years."
"That sounds like a threat," said Smart. "That isn't okay with me."
"We're saving $1,000 going in front of the Hakala's house," responded Cliff Goodwin. "We're trying to spend $1,000 that we don't have."
John Goodwin said that any further delay would result in the club pursuing the path that includes road traffic past the Hakala home.
"I've gone through enough political hoops," said John Goodwin. He said that, if he was asked one more question, he would pursue the route that the Hakalas opposed.
Chair Ray Glover restored order, and the room quieted as the board approved a five-minute recess.
During the recess, Town Manager Phil Tarr spoke privately with the Goodwins and the Hakalas. At the end of the recess, the Goodwins agreed to wait until the next meeting of the board to get approval, with the understanding that the delay might cause them to need an extension on the amount of time needed to use the alternate path.
The board will vote on the tabled request during its next meeting, May 23.
If approved, ATV traffic will be permitted from "Cairns Farm Road up to East Oxford Road to Parsons Road, and down Parsons Road just past the Berube house, to the trail head opening," for a 30-day period beginning June 1.