This article first appeared in the June 26, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
WEST WINDSOR — About eight signs have gone missing or been vandalized within the past year in the Town Forest.
Direction signs and signs prohibiting all-terrain vehicles have been pulled from the ground or driven over, by what the town believes are ATV riders — which are not allowed on the Town Forest trails. Signs at the access point to the Town Forest were pulled out last year, making it so ATVs can squeeze through and ride on West Windsor’s public hiking and mountain bike trails. The most recent direction sign was pulled from the ground about a month ago, said Jim Lyall, a member of the Town Forest Committee.
The West Windsor Interim Policy for the Town Forest prohibits all motorized vehicles beyond the parking lot, except for fire and rescue vehicles and snowmobiles on the existing trail. The town’s ACT 250 permit also prohibits ATV riders from being in the Town Forest.
“We are well aware and it’s been well documented that (ATVs) do incur erosion in steep sections of trails,” said Selectboard chair Glenn Seward.
Although Lyall has never seen an ATV rider in the Town Forest, which spans about 1,342 acres, other people have reported seeing them.
One ATV rider was spotted by a walker about month ago and although Lyall said he “was riding slowly and responsibly,” he still wasn’t allowed.
Each sign that Lyall can’t find costs about $60 to replace, he said. The signs are reinforced plastic posts, about 5 inches by 5 inches that are pounded into the ground at every intersection.
“We were replacing them with some regularity for a while,” said Seward. “They have been coming down so frequently that we have stopped replacing them at this point.”
The Selectboard is considering adopting a new ordinance so it has more enforcement power. It’s currently working off a model policy from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which specifies which roads ATVs can be ridden on in towns and at what times. A recommended first offense fee is $25, second offense is $50 and third offense is $100 in the model policy.
The town is going to talk about the policy at an upcoming July meeting and will pass its own version of an ATV policy sometime thereafter. There are no specified ATV trails in West Windsor.
“The town forest is quite steep in most parts, it’s just not a good place for them,” said Seward, who is also an ATV rider.