The Berlin Daily Sun
May 11, 2016
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — Over the past eight years, the White Mountain Ridge Runners snowmobile club has undertaken and completed dozens of trail projects while expanding its trail system. In 2011, the club raised more than $60,000 and led the effort to build a warming hut in Jericho Mountain State Park that is a popular stop along the trail system for both snowmobilers and ATVers.
Ridge Runners Assistant Trail Master Larry Gomes said a total of 43 volunteers spent 201 person-days over a six-month period building the hut. The following year, working with Fish and Game Lt. Wayne Saunders, Gomes said the club raised more than $40,000 to purchase an emergency response vehicle and trailer for southern Coos County that could respond to snowmobile and ATV accidents on the trail and safely transport patients out of the woods. He said the vehicle has been used dozens of times since it was put in service.
The trail system has been redone and expanded from 75 miles to 95 miles. Gomes said more than 50 miles of existing trail has been upgraded with new ditching, removal of rocks and stumps and more than 100 new bridges. With snowfall levels and winter weather being unpredictable, he said the goal is to make the trail system passable in minimal snow conditions.
The latest project has been a rebuild of the trestle bridge at the end of Dead River Park and behind the Valley Creek Eatery, which was accomplished with help from the Milan Trail Huggers ATV club. The bridge had been closed for use because of safety concerns. The rebuild took five weeks with volunteers spending a total of 228 hours on the project. The budget for materials was just over $7,500 and the funds came from a federal Recreational Trails Program grant obtained by the Ridge Runners club.
The clubs had hoped to do the project last year but the grant funds were not released until this year. The rotted deck was removed and a new 78-foot long deck was installed along with railings and benches. One of the project goals was to make the bridge a destination where people can sit and enjoy the river so three alcoves were designed, each with a 10-foot long bench.
The railings and benches were stained to provide a nice contrast and also to prevent mold from forming. The crew also installed rough-sawn lumber to hide the steel beams under the bridge, which looked unsightly when approaching the bridge because of the old paint and rust on them. The rebuilding of the trestle bridge adds to the ongoing volunteer effort to revitalize Dead River Park.
People can now walk through the park from Cole Street to Hillside Avenue. Gomes said the club has between 200 and 300 members but said a core group of about a dozen people does most of the volunteer work. About half of that core group's members come up from southern New England, driving between 100 and 300 miles to assist. The rest are local people. “It’s a great group of people who don’t get a lot of recognition,” Gomes noted, adding that their efforts make the Berlin and Milan trail system “a place people want to visit.”