(This story was first published in the March 13, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By George Calver, Standard Correspondent
BROWNSVILLE — West Windsor’s Select Board decided recently to grant the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Ride Committee a permit to hold its 26th annual race scheduled for July 19-20, in spite of some reservations by town officials about safety, traffic and noise issues.
Most of that opposition came from Silver Hill Road residents Dave and Tracy Dugdale, who live just across the road from where the event takes place.
The race is the only 100-mile event in the nation where runners and horses race over the same course, and each year it has brought 400 or more long distance runners, equestrians and horses to the starting and finishing point at Silver Hill Meadows in West Windsor. But traffic and noise, including fireworks at 3:45 a.m. last year, dismayed neighbors, such as the Dugdales.
Although Dave Dugdale said during the course of the debate at last week’s Select Board meeting that he and his wife would go along with the grant of a permit this year — so long as the board agreed that this would be the last year that a permit would be granted for the site—the Board permitted the event with several conditions, but would not agree to tie its hands on future requests.
“I have a problem saying in advance that there will be no permit next year. We need to evaluate the situation immediately after the race and see how the changes and conditions worked. After that, we might strongly encourage the committee to move the location,” Select Board chair Glenn Seward said in answer to Dugdale’s request.
The chair’s statement did not sit well with Tracy Dugdale who challenged the board’s right to grant a permit, citing the town’s ordinances on assembly permitting.
“If not all of the conditions (of the ordinance) are met, you have not done your job under the law…I will do what it takes, even if I have to get an attorney,” Dugdale said.
Dugdale finished her statement saying, “It needs to stop—it needs to move—I want it to be the last year in our front yard.”
Ride organizer and spokesperson for the Vermont 100, Julia O’Brien, acknowledged the safety issue and concerns about noise, and said that race organizers would do a better job this year of controlling traffic and noise.
When the subject of finding an alternate site was raised by the Dugdales and the Board, O’Brien said, “It is not for a lack of trying that we have not found another location. However, we cannot consider moving to a location that works less well.”
Mike Doton, a member of the race committee, and a director of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, which received a grant of $65,000 from the proceeds of the ride last year said, “I would welcome a list of properties to evaluate,” and promised to give the Select Board an outline what is required to mount the event if town officials would identify some potential sites in the town.
Dave Dugdale took issue with town officials helping race organizers locate alternate sites, but Seward answered, “This is an unusual event that clearly benefits the town—it is our duty as Selectmen to assist.”
The assembly permit was granted by unanimous vote, but with nine conditions, the principal ones being a requirement that the finish line and all related activities be moved into the woods or to a point just down-hill from last year’s location to mitigate noise, and a requirement that a roving patrol with necessary communication be in place to address traffic issues and to escort emergency vehicles if required.
The board also required signage to direct traffic, and the closure of Blood Hill and Kings Highway to traffic.
In addition, all auxiliary noise makers (such as cowbells and fireworks) are to be prohibited from the finish line and all non-essential activities such as bands will cease at 11p.m.
Lastly, the board added a stipulation to the effect that race organizers will meet with the Select Board in a public meeting as soon as possible after the race — taking into account everyone’s schedule — to evaluate how the conditions were followed and what was the overall impact of the race.