People off-roading on public and private trails have recently noticed new signs restricting vehicles that are wider than 60 inches.

The signs have caused some uproar among local ATV clubs, although Brian Bronson, supervisor of the Off Road Recreational Vehicle Program for the state, said the restriction is not new.

“Several landowners agreed to the 60-inch width limit, which they started putting in their ATV Trail licenses beginning in 2005,” he said. “Prior to that, the width restrictions ranged from 50 to 56 inches.”

One of those landowners was Central Maine Power, which has allowed for 18 trails on its properties to be licensed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands for ATV use.

According to Communications Officer Gail Rice, CMP offers organized snowmobile and ATV clubs the opportunity to maintain trails on its corridors, provided they receive a license from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“As part of its licensing process, CMP requires that written notice of all proposed trails be given to abutting landowners prior to the state making application to CMP, that only snowmobiles and 3- and 4-wheeled ATVs are permitted on CMP corridors, and that no other vehicles such as 4×4 trucks, motorcycles or dirt bikes are permitted,” Rice said.

She said unauthorized and inappropriate use of CMP’s corridors has already caused significant damage to some, and the activity can be very disruptive to people who live nearby. Deep, water-filled ruts along the power line trails and torn up ground are some of the marks left by riders on CMP property, she said.

“The reality is we are operating on private land and it is a privilege not a right,” Bronson said. “These landowners do not want the wider machines so we need to comply with their wishes or we will not have a trail. That will certainly hurt the businesses and the economy.”

Not all riders are affected by the restriction, however. Almost all three- and 4-wheeled ATVs are narrower than 60 inches.

Jared Mailhot of Central Maine Powersports in Lewiston said most of their side-by-side utility vehicles, or UTVs, sold, are less than 60 inches wide.

Even some older Jeeps are less than 60 inches wide, said Doug Wilson, president of Western Maine Mountain Jeepers. His 1954 Willys is within the restricted width.

But Mike Bennett, Bethel business owner and an ATV enthusiast, said the restrictions will affect plenty of people, including himself.

According to the Polaris and Can-Am websites, most of their side-by-side UTVs are 64 inches wide. Bennett’s machine, which he purchased last summer, is a 68-inch-wide Can-Am.

“People like me who went out and spent $22,000 on an ATV now can’t use them,” he said. “When you buy an ATV, your first question isn’t how wide it is.”

He said he’d like to see local ATV clubs talk to CMP and other landowners about their restrictions, and advocate for a compromise.

“Think of what’s going to get lost if this goes forward and more landowners adopt the 60-inch rule,” he said. “The ATV market in Maine will go sour very fast.”

John MacDonald, public information officer for the Maine Warden Service, said he understands why the restriction may have caught some people by surprise.

“Manufacturers are building machines bigger, so when people go to buy, they assume they can use them on any trail,” MacDonald said.

Maine does not have a width restriction for state trails, and MacDonald suggested riders call landowners and local clubs before they head out to ride if they aren’t sure about trail restrictions.

He said wardens will enforce the 60-inch rule.

[email protected]

Damage done to a trail on land owned by Central Maine Power.

Recreational off-highway vehicles, also known as side-by-sides, are different from ATVs. Unlike ATVs, ROVs have a steering wheel, bench or bucket seats, seat belts, foot controls and a roll cage.

An ATV, center, is flanked by two larger UTVs on either side.

A broken bridge on a trail on land owned by CMP.

A copy of the sign that riders will see more of on privately owned land.

Doug Wilson’s 1954 Willys Jeep is less than 60 inches wide.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: