A lingering dispute between Maine and New Hampshire over accessing snowmobile trails in Evans and Grafton notches was settled Friday with the stroke of a pen.

Now, riders who want to use New Hampshire Trail 18 and Maine ITS Trail 80 can, regardless of which of the two states the sleds are registered in.

Before L.D. 1688 was inked into law by Gov. John Baldacci, Maine required nonresidents to register snowmobiles in Maine if they wanted to ride on Maine’s trails. New Hampshire had a similar requirement.

The registration requirement hit some sledders in the pocketbook, especially those from the Fryeburg area who might want to ride to Conway, N.H., or those from Berlin, N.H., hoping to sled into Maine.

The politically powerful Maine Snowmobile Association had supported the requirement, noting that New Hampshire sledders were using Maine trails but not contributing to their maintenance. A portion of registration fees in Maine are passed along to towns and snowmobile clubs to pay for trail grooming, bridge construction and other work.

With passage of the law, both states will pick up the tab for maintenance and grooming.

“We are very pleased that riders from both states can once again enjoy these trails without registering their sled in both states,” said the MSA’s executive director, Bob Myers.

He sang a different tune in February.

“They’ve got a $9,000 snow-machine on a $4,000 trailer hauled by a $40,000 SUV and they can’t afford $69 to register their sled in Maine?” he asked then.

Maine and New Hampshire offered reciprocity on snowmobile registrations until about three years ago. New Hampshire sledders could travel on Maine trails and vice versa without registering snowmobiles in the other state. It ended in part because Maine realized that more and more Granite Staters were using more and more Pine Tree State trails without paying for their maintenance.

Myers credited Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner, Roland “Danny” Martin with doing “a tremendous job in taking the leadership role and pulling together all sides to reach an agreement.”

Martin had conducted some cross-border shuttle diplomacy with his peers in New Hampshire over the course of the winter and spring to bring about the accord.

He said he was pleased that negotiators were able “to make this happen,” adding that businesses in the areas that cater to snowmobilers also stand to gain by it.

In New Hampshire, Gov. John Lynch praised the deal.

“Snowmobiling is an important part of the culture and the economies of both New Hampshire and Maine,” said Lynch. “During a visit to Berlin during my first few weeks in office, several local citizens raised their concerns about this issue and asked … to find common ground.”

“Good government should be about cooperation and putting the people’s interest first,” Baldacci said. “This is good news for the snowmobile riders in both Maine and New Hampshire. I’m proud of everyone who worked so hard to bring the idea forward.”

The bill allowing the limited trail reciprocity was sponsored by Sen. Bruce Bryant of Oxford and co-sponsored by Rep. Roberta Muse of Fryeburg.

It designates parts of both trails as the Maine-New Hampshire Cooperative Trails.

They’ll be the only trails in either state that are interstate cooperative trails. Signs will be placed on the trails clearly identifying them as cooperative trails.

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