Policing Their Own
While Pine Tree Riders appear carefree on their bikes, they stress the need to be respectful on the private lands where they have been given permission to ride.
Smith-Peterson said it's a constant battle to gain permission and no one wants to do anything to lose that privilege.
The riders even police bad behavior among their own. When a new rider revved his heavy horsepower motor and skidded out of Schott's driveway, Schott was not impressed.
"He'd be asked not to come back," said Schott, 64, with a nod to the young rider.
Gagnon said he's ridden in Florida, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and Maine landowners are among the most generous.
"West Virginia was the best. They have this Hatfield-McCoy Trail. I drove 1,000 miles to ride for three days. It was worth it," Gagnon said. "There are 500 miles of trail that is state-run. They know every trail and it's absolutely legal."
However, there are some Maine landowners who are against dirt bikes on their land.
Central Maine Power forbids dirt bikes on its 2,200-mile corridor of land, although in some cases, all-terrain vehicles are allowed.
An agreement signed in January between the power company and the Maine Department of Conservation opened 20 to 30 miles of CMP land to ATV clubs that ask.
But Paul Fecteau, CMP's real estate analyst, said the agreement does not include dirt bikes, even though dirt bikes are licensed in Maine by the same off-road registration.
Fecteau said CMP prohibits dirt bikes because the narrow tires can dig up the ground quicker than the tire of a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, and cause erosion faster.
"We also lease out space to underground gas pipelines and fiber-optic cables. If the vehicle chewed up the ground more, it would get close to the cable. God forbid it hit a pipeline," Fecteau said.
Still, every summer, the Pine Tree Riders host an event that allows for the kind of nonstop, long-distance dirt bike riding found in states with public motocross trails, like West Virginia.
The route changes a little each year, but traditionally it has gone from Buckfield to Rumford.
This year's ride was held July 28 and 29, and ran from Buckfield to Sunday River. Gagnon said it drew riders from New York, Vermont and Rhode Island.
But, Smith-Peterson said, lots of preparation leads up to the fat-tire frolic.
"The guys in the club do a lot of work lining it up with land owners," Smith-Peterson said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the Pine Tree Trail Riders, go to www.pinetreetrailriders.com.