September 17, 2011
By Emma Bouthillette Staff Writer

BY EMMA BOUTHILLETTE; The Portland Press Herald

Pedestrians and bicyclists are welcome, but as construction wraps up on the latest section of the Eastern Trail, ATV riders are being reminded to stay off the pathway.

Reports of recent ATV use on new sections of the Eastern Trail in York County have prompted Facebook warnings and new signs on the trail to remind users that ATVs and snowmobiles aren’t allowed.

The newest section of the trail, from Saco to Old Orchard Beach, will be ready for use by mid-November.

“Snowmobiles and ATVs just gravitate to these things as a great spot to recreate. … That’s perfectly understandable,” said Bob Hamblen, vice president and treasurer of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

In fact, motor vehicles weren’t allowed on that land before it became part of the Eastern Trail.

Most of the Eastern Trail is on land owned by Unitil, which has always forbidden ATV and snowmobile use, but rarely enforced it. Most of the trail is part of the natural gas pipeline corridor and needs to be remain properly covered, Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara said.

“ATVs can move dirt around and can create ruts. While pedestrians won’t really have an impact, ATV use can cause a maintenance issue,” O’Meara said.

And as more people are walking and biking the Eastern Trail, the ban on motorized vehicles is an increasingly important safety issue, trail backers say.

Eastern Trail officials say it’s a problem they’ve faced before.

When a new mile-and-a-half section opened in Old Orchard Beach about three years ago, it was frequently used by ATV and snowmobile riders who had been used to riding in the area.

The Alliance got help from the Old Orchard Beach Police Department and followed vehicle tracks back to individual homes to tell them they couldn’t ride on the trail. The education effort paid off, and there are few complaints today about motor vehicles using that section of trail, according to Lt. Tim Deluca.

“It was more of let’s get the message out and let the public know, educating the public it was not accessible for ATVs,” Deluca said.

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