It looks like New Hampshire’s ice riding motorcyclists may have another opportunity to be heard. In February 2020, we told you about Hoit Road Marsh in an article titled 40 Year Motorcycle Tradition Killed In Backroom Political Move. The Hoit Road marsh is a place where riders had reportedly been ice riding for decades.
Ice-riding banned without public notice or hearings
But in 2019, ice riding on Hoit Road Marsh was silently and suddenly banned overnight. There were no public notices, nor were there any public hearings. But at the end of the legislative session, there was a new overnight law banning OHRV’s from Hoit Road Marsh.
The new law became possible with a last-minute rider to New Hampshire’s state budget. The sudden and stealthy way the ban was enacted is one reason riders and non-riders alike were upset.
No jurisdiction, no problem
According to the Concord Monitor, Concord’s Mayor, Jim Bouley, did not have the jurisdiction to ban the activity since ponds over 10 acres in size are under state jurisdiction. Again, according to the Concord Monitor, at the request of Bouley, then-Senator Dan Feltes added a provision to the state budget rider bill, House Bill 4, to ban off-road vehicle use on Hoit Road Marsh. And immediately after the budget’s passage, riding on the ice on Hoit Road Marsh became illegal. That caused some to wonder why there were no hearings and whether the law was passed at the behest of only a few, allegedly politically connected, people.
Unusual ice-riding ban
Interestingly, the ban was enacted only on Hoit Road Marsh, leaving all of New Hampshire’s other “great ponds” (ponds larger than 10 acres) unaffected. The ban’s implementation was so sudden and unannounced that even an official of New Hampshire’s Fish & Game law enforcement division seemed surprised. He is quoted as saying:
“It’s pretty unusual. Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any other water bodies that are shut off to OHRV’s during wintertime.”
But now, some are seeking to overturn the ban. A group of riding enthusiasts, the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders (MVTR), are working with the New Hampshire legislature to amend the ban. According to the MVTR website, an amendment to the outright ban (attached to House Bill 1316) would let riders use the ice Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 AM to 4:00 PM. The ice would be closed on all legal holidays. That bill died in the statehouse without action.
But now, a new bill, New Hampshire House Bill 571, is making its way through the legislature. It does not amend the Hoit Road Marsh prohibition. It seeks to repeal it. A public hearing was held on February 10, 2021. And it is now in front of the Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee. The state docket says that it is due out of committee on March 11, 2021.
While the Hoit Road marsh ban is playing out, other new scenarios are arising. According to the Concord Monitor, some residents of Bow, New Hampshire, are trying a different approach to controlling state lakes and ponds. They want local control of the resources.
House Bill 534 proposed by a Bow State Representative would allow municipalities to regulate off-road vehicles on the use of frozen bodies of water up to 100 acres in size. It would allow towns and cities to impose hours of operation, limitations, or even outright bans on the lakes and ponds.
The bill is receiving opposition from several fronts. Not only are many riders and snowmobilers against the bill, but some state government agencies are as well. Again, according to the Concord Monitor, representatives of the New Hampshire State Police and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department are voicing their concerns.
The Concord Monitor quotes Captain Michael Eastman of New Hampshire Fish and Game as saying:
“These are public places for all people to recreate. The concerns that we have is that it would create confusion to the public, to have different laws and ordinances from town to town in those bodies of water.”
It’s clear that New Hampshire’s ice riding is quite a volatile subject. And it seems that many objections to the activities stem from abutting neighbor’s noise complaints. So is it possible that we, as a group of ice-riding motorcyclists, could help stem the opposition from abutting landowners?
If we address the abutter’s noise complaints, is it possible that most of these legal hassles will disappear? There are already federal regulations that govern the amount of noise a motorcycle exhaust can make. And although it is already law, some riders choose to ignore it.
Fix the problem ourselves?
What if we, as motorcyclists, and in this case, ice riding motorcyclists, just adhere to the existing noise emission regulations? If we claim we are not racing on the ice, why do we need an exhaust that exceeds the permissible noise limits?
I’m not saying that most ice riders have overly loud and illegal exhausts. What I am saying is that if we take away the abutter’s ability to complain about noise levels by sticking to federal noise limits, we are eliminating their legal claim.
And who better to enforce noise limits but ourselves? It’s far better than having a governmental agency or the police enforce the rules. We need to stick together on this, or I fear we will find ourselves foreclosed from even more locales.
What do you think about New Hampshire’s ice racing noise issue? Could we fix this issue ourselves without the government? Let us know in the comments below.