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Mohawk Ramblers building

Mohawk Ramblers motorcycle club in the Montague Plains near Lake Pleasant.  Recorder/Paul Franz

Mohawk Ramblers motorcycle club in the Montague Plains near Lake Pleasant. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

MONTAGUE — If your familiarity with motorcycle clubs begins and ends with the Hell’s Angels or the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” you might be surprised by a local club’s reputation.

The Mohawk Ramblers sponsor a scholarship for Franklin County Technical School students and participate in the community in many other small ways: supporting charities, cleaning their corner of the outdoors. In 2009, they helped move the former Turners Falls skate park when it was evicted from its Third Street location.

Now the club is fighting its own eviction.

“We’ve actually spent half a century helping the community and now we’re kind of in a spot where we need the community to help us,” said member John Burek of Shelburne Falls.

The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has instructed the club to leave its clubhouse in the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area by June 14, in a letter sent in November.

Burek and a handful of other members, appeared at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen to ask that body for its support.

Founded in 1958, the club has leased the cinder block building on Bartlett Road from various entities since the mid-1960s, according to members.

“Part of our constitution is to try to give motorcyclists a better name. A lot of times we see motorcyclists cast as outlaws and villains in movies, and that’s really not what our club is about,” Burek said. “We’re just working guys who ride motorcycles and we like to get together.”

Burek told selectmen that if the clubhouse goes, members don’t know what will happen to the club. They may end up meeting at members’ garages.

There are about 45 members currently, he said. The club owns a little land in Gill and had earlier this year begun the process of setting up a new clubhouse there, but Burek said they don’t have the money to build new.

Members said Fisheries and Wildlife has variously cited plans to restore the Montague Plains and a desire to move away from leasing as reasons for the eviction. The Ramblers’ lease expired several years ago but they had continued with an informal arrangement.

Burek said if leasing is a problem, they would be happy to buy the plot off Lake Pleasant Road, and members argue their presence is a benefit rather than a detriment to the natural landscape.

Members say their presence helps to deter people looking for a secluded spot to dump trash, and they organize sporadic cleanups along the roadsides as needed.

The selectmen voted unanimously to sign a still-to-be-drafted letter to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, to be copied to area legislators, supporting the club and asking the Division to reconsider.

“I think this is a bum deal,” said Chairman Mark Fairbrother. An avid birdwatcher, Fairbrother said he understands what the state agency is trying to do in the Plains but said there was no reason to evict the club.

The club is working with Rep. Steve Kulik to seek an extension.

Energy and Environmental Affairs spokeswoman Amy Mahler said plans are to raze the building and restore the habitat. The Montague Plains is the largest inland pine barrens in New England, Mahler said, and has been instrumental in the development of best practices used elsewhere. The person with the answers to specific questions about the property was out of the office Tuesday, Mahler said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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