JACKSON — Some residents were confused when they started seeing ATV signs on some of the town’s back roads in early August this year. Without their knowledge, a permit had been issued late last summer to the Jackson Wheel and Sky Club to allow ATV use on some town roads.

The permit request was an effort to connect ATV trails near some club members’ homes in the eastern part of the town with a larger trail system that runs through the west part of town without having to trailer their ATVs to the other side of town, club President Eric Nickerson said.

The permit includes parts of Hatch, East Chase, Hadley Mill and Long Swamp roads. Some of the portions of Hadley Mill and Hatch roads are paved.

But David McDaniel, who lives on East Chase Road, said he felt that the public was not as involved in the permit request and approval as it should have been.

He was unaware that the Select Board was even meeting in August 2020, because there was a post on the town website that said meetings were canceled until further notice. That message is still posted online because no town official knows how to change it on the website, according to the town clerk.

McDaniel contacted Select Board member Bryan Menard about the ATV signs, but Menard initially said he did not know why the signs were posted. Then, in a later conversation, Menard confirmed that he had signed an ATV permit last year for those roads, McDaniel said. He spoke to Nickerson and Select Board Member Don Nickerson, who is Eric Nickerson’s father, and said both were forthcoming with information about the permit approval.

McDaniel went to the Town Office Aug. 6 to read through the meeting minutes for the Select Board meeting at which the permit was issued, Aug. 11, 2020, but found no minutes, he said. During that visit, the town clerk said she had no knowledge of any recent ATV permits being issued. During another visit to the Town Office a few days later, the clerk could not find the town’s copy of the ATV permit.

There are no minutes for any August 2020 meetings, because there was no note taker at the time, according to the clerk. The Republican Journal requested to see a copy of the permit Sept. 3, but the clerk said the town’s copy had been misplaced after a recent Select Board meeting.

Neither Menard nor fellow Select Board member John Work, both of whom were on the Select Board when the permit was issued, responded to Republican Journal requests for interviews. Don Nickerson was not on the Select Board when the permit was issued.

Still confused about the permit process after conversations with public officials, McDaniel and several neighbors went to the Aug. 10 Select Board meeting to inquire about the signs and the conversation was tense at times, he said.

It ended with the Select Board voting to have the signs taken down, but members refused to rescind the permit, he said. They decided to have a public hearing about the issue before the next annual meeting in spring 2022 and to have a straw vote at that meeting.

The town took a straw vote on the issue in 2008 where residents voted against an ATV permit to use town roads, McDaniel said. There were people in town at the time who were acting as “ATV menaces” to residents, but those people have since left town, Eric Nickerson said. Members of the Jackson Wheel and Sky Club are respectful of ATV rules and local homeowners, he added.

Louise Shorette also lives on East Chase Road; she spoke with Work about the permit and he informed her that the Select Board has the authority to issue a permit without a town vote or notification of neighboring property owners, she said.

Her road is narrow and rural; she described it as “idyllic.” She is concerned that if ATVs are permitted on the road it might disrupt the quiet lifestyle she and her neighbors enjoy. She said she has neighbors who walk their children on the road.

Both she and McDaniel said they have noticed a small increase in ATV use in the area. They hope it does not increase to a point where they are hearing ATVs constantly driving by.

East Chase Road and West Chase Road are opposite ends of the same roughly one-mile road, but because the middle section of the road is so narrow, it is not common for people to drive the length of it.

Nickerson said the club members chose what they thought were the safest roads to use where the least number of homes are affected. The club maintains Jackson’s ATV and snowmobile trails, and taking the signs down could make it more difficult for people riding ATVs to navigate the trail system. The club waited a year to put signs up after the permit was issued because of coronavirus concerns.

Nickerson has tried compromising with one concerned homeowner, but said the homeowner is not open to negotiations. One compromise he said he offered was to refuse future connections with trail systems in neighboring towns like Dixmont or Monroe.

He has only heard complaints about the permit from a small group of residents, he said. He does not think the permit is going to trigger a sharp increase in ATV use in town. “They think that this is going to turn into some ATV highway, and it’s simply not the case. There’s nowhere to go. It’s a dead-end trail,” he said.

He intends to talk to local game wardens in the hope of creating a plan that will still allow club members on the eastern side of town to access a route that gets them to the larger trail system on the other side of town, he said. But right now the club is not advertising the trail.

Though the permit was not rescinded, McDaniel is glad that the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue at the next annual meeting. He said Select Board members indicated that they will honor the results of the straw vote. “I am grateful that they committed to that. I just wish that there wasn’t a permit hanging over our head,” he said.