Roxbury ATV riders’s toy run enables up-close view of new wind farm

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ANDOVER — More than 100 people of all ages participated in the Roxbury ATV Riders Club‘s seventh annual Christmas in July ATV Toy Run on Saturday from and to Grimaldi Field.

They filled club President Michael Worthley’s pickup truck bed with toys, while others gave cash donations to participate in the ride to Record Hill Wind LLC’s 22-turbine wind farm in Roxbury and back.

To ride, participants had to bring an unwrapped toy in a plastic bag or donate cash that would be used to buy clothing or other needs for area children.

The ride benefits several local charities, including Santa’s Helpers in Mexico; Christmas for Families in Bethel, Dixfield and Peru; the Andover Food Pantry; Christmas in Andover, Byron and Roxbury; and Families in Crisis of Oxford County.

After dropping off toys or cash donations, more than 75 ATVs of all shapes and sizes rumbled to life.

It was 76 degrees at 10 a.m. when club president Michael Worthley, driving his Polaris Ranger Crew ATV, led the group toward the first trail off Route 120.

With him in the back seat, were his two helmeted grandchildren, Aiden Gordon, 5, and Wyatt Gordon, 3, both of Andover, and Roxbury Town Clerk Nina Hodgkins, all wearing safety belts. The Gordons are the grandchildren of Worthley and his wife Wanda of Roxbury, and Craig and Jane Ryerson of Bethel.

“Are we going first?” Aiden asked.

“Yep,” Worthley, also a Roxbury selectman, replied.

“Cool,” Aiden said.

“That way we don’t get no dust,” Worthley said.

“Everybody follow the leader,” Aiden then yelled to a long line of riders.

The trail off Route 120 to the Andover Earth Station, a former satellite tracking station run by Comsat during the Cold War era, was mostly a mud-runner’s delight.

“This is a trail we normally take to go to the wind towers,” Worthley said of the rugged, rock-strewn, muddy stretch packing large puddles from Friday night’s rain shower.

The Toy Run hits sections of the more than 200 miles of trails that the club maintains, taking in sights such as the new wind farm and the earth station.

Michael Worthley said the wind turbines are fast becoming a popular draw for many participants in the club’s annual fundraising rides.

In past years, the club has held 25-mile or longer rides.

“We’re trying to keep them short, especially where it’s going to be so hot today,” he said.

The trail quickly went from mud to rocks to hard-packed dirt and gravel, traveling through forests of hardwoods and softwoods.

Due to the lack of snow this winter, Worthley said the club opened its trails on April 17. Last year, they couldn’t open them until June 11. And then on Aug. 1, 2011, heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene wiped out sections of several trails, closing them until members could fix the damage.

In August, Worthley said the club will open a brand new 45-mile loop trail from the West Branch Road to the Bemis Track. That will enable riders to take in the spectacular Angel Falls in Township D and Mooselookmeguntic and Richardson lakes.

Saturday’s ride across varied terrain gave participants a visual treat and full-body workout. But for club member Michael Fournier of Auburn, who wanted to view the wind turbines, it was well worth it.

“Loved it,” he said.

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