Could a 2019 ice riding ban be repealed?

Stormy weather is brewing in New Hampshire. The trouble: riding motorcycles in winter, across icy public ponds. Some riders say they’ve been doing it for decades. Meanwhile, some local homeowners say the noise is too much, especially since everyone is spending more time at home due to COVID.  

This icy, extremely local drama came to a head with a 2018 ban against all OHRV vehicles on Concord, New Hampshire’s Hoit Road Marsh. Why just that one pond? According to the Concord Monitor, the ban came about because local Concord officials asked a state legislator to add the ban to the 2019 state budget agreement as a rider.  

Thus, the ban quietly went into effect with zero public hearings and just as little testimony. Ever since Fall 2019, no off-road motor vehicles, such as bikes or snowmobiles, have been allowed to ride on the frozen Hoit Road Marsh pond. It’s worth noting that it became so popular in the first place for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s shallow enough to freeze solid quickly. That means falling through ice into deeper water isn’t a concern. Also, while snowmobiles can opt to use snowmobile trails, motorcycles don’t have the same option, as they’re banned from most such trails in the area. 

With the 2021 state legislative session, local riders are hopeful that a new bill repealing that 2019 ban will pass. HB 571 was introduced on the floor of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives on January 27, 2021. A public hearing took place on February 10, 2021, which residents could attend remotely via a streaming link.  

According to New Hampshire’s standards, that means the bill is 25 percent along the way toward completion. Whether it will make it to 100 percent remains to be seen. Riders want their pond back, while neighbors of the NIMBY persuasion continue to complain about noise.  

It’s not all about this one pond, though. Elsewhere in New Hampshire, a similar battle with very familiar arguments is brewing at the Turee Pond in Bow. There, legislators are exploring the idea of local jurisdiction over individual ponds, with each jurisdiction setting its own rules. Restrictions on days, hours, and types of vehicles allowed could come into play under this scenario. However, multiple local groups, including the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association, say it would be too confusing. They also argue that it would be detrimental to winter tourism in the area.  

This is a hyperlocal battle, but there are plenty of others just like it that aren’t in New Hampshire. Wherever there are frozen ponds and off-road enthusiasts who are perfectly happy to play in the cold, there are usually some neighbors that have a problem with it. Do you have a story like this to tell? What happened, and how did you deal with it?  

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