By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
The former owner of the Ascutney Mountain Resort is threatening to close his land to public use unless the town reduces his property tax burden.
Dan Purjes, the owner of the ski mountain, which closed in 2010 due to bankruptcy, sent an email to the town last Friday saying he’s terminating his lease agreement. The town will no longer be able to use his land, which borders the ski area, for recreational purposes, effective Jan. 16. He said he’d consider signing a new license agreement with the town as long as he got a tax break, documents show.
The announcement will cut about four miles of mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails maintained by Sport Trails of the Ascutney Basin.
“These are some of our easiest trails and we’ll miss that because it’s difficult on a mountainside,” said STAB co-founder Jim Lyall.
Purjes sold about 500 acres of the former ski mountain to the Upper Valley Land Trust in 2014 for $1.5 million. Purjes retained two parcels, which total about 104 acres.
“If this is not of interest, please make arrangements to remove all signs and other artifacts the town may have installed on MFW property, such as trail signs and other information signs, kiosks, warming huts, etc,” Purjes said in the email.
Attempts to contact Purjes weren’t successful. He first signed the lease agreement with the town June 25, 2014. Purjes gave no reasons for the lease termination in his emails.
Purjes owns a total of 140 acres in West Windsor, which is assessed at $752,200. He paid about $14,339 last year in property taxes, records show.
Purjes has a portion of his property listed for sale with Seth Warren Real Estate, said Lyall.
The STAB trail system totals about 35 miles. Most of it is on town property. Some is also on state park property.
“It’s troubling,” said Ascutney Outdoors board member Glenn Seward of Purjes’ email.
Seward played a large part of the mountain acquisition and was formerly chair of the select board.
Ascutney Outdoors organizes established ski trails on the mountain in 2015. The skiing won’t be affected by Purjes’ move.
“Obviously the trails are incredibly important to Asctuney Outdoors and STAB,” said Seward.
Lyall said he was disappointed by Purjes’ announcement, but not surprised. He knew Purjes was trying to sell the land. Lyall said he’ll remove trail signs. He’ll try to construct new trails to continue offering lower level mountain biking trails.
“We have ways of getting around the trails. It was nice to have some easier trails,” he said.
This article first appeared in the December 29, 2016 edition of the Vermont Standard.