The discussion was prompted by comments from highway department members at the board’s previous regular meeting, as board members requested an annual request from the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers to allow snowmobiling on portions of several public roads. At that meeting, highway department members said they have seen a number of snowmobile problems on roads at Chimney Hill, and said they were concerned about safety.
Spicer asked what Chimney Hill could do to work with police and the town to ensure safety. “I know part of that is addressing some items that have gone by the wayside in terms of signage,” he said.
Showing the board a map of the trails in the Chimney Hill area, Spicer said his goal was to direct people out of the development and onto the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers statewide trail system. “We’ve done a lot of work to create trails through our common lands to allow many owners to gain access directly over Chimney Hill roads that have access to VAST trails,” he said. “People don’t want to ride around Chimney Hill, they want to get to the VAST system. But one of the problems for developing new trails is the terrain. It’s called Chimney Hill for a reason. And there’s Binney Brook running right down through the middle of it. What else can we do as a group to ensure we can continue to use these roads and also make it safe for the traveling public and snowmobilers?”
Spicer echoed the words of highway department member Doug Wheeler last week when he noted that most people in Chimney Hill follow the rules and only ride on roads designated for snowmobiling. “You know, 90% of the people follow the laws,” he said. “It’s the wingnuts, the 10% that don’t care how many signs you’ve posted, they’re going to run by their own rules.”
Wilmington Police Chief Joe Szarejko said his department has worked closely with the Chimney Hill Homeowners’ Association and the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers. He noted that some of the issues are not in CHOA’s control. “A lot of people come to this area for snowmobiling, and a lot of people rent houses that are advertised as having direct access to trails when they don’t. That’s where we have issues. It’s not rampant, but we do see that sometimes.”
Szarejko said Wilmington police often patrol Chimney Hill in the winter and warn snowmobilers when they’re not following the rules. “A lot of the time, people don’t know. People think, ‘This is the country, we can ride wherever we want to go.’ People that are flagrant violators we know.”
Selectboard chair Tom Fitzgerald said the board supports snowmobiling and the contribution it makes to the local economy. “We don’t want to see the trails shrinking,” he said. “One of the good things about Chimney Hill roads is that you don’t see a lot of traffic on them, and we don’t want to restrict their use.”
The board unanimously voted to allow the use of the public roads requested by the Stump Jumpers.
The board also listened to a presentation from Adam Grinold, Kristin Mehalick, and Sarah Lang, of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, on the programs they administer for the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies group. Noting that some have confused the roles of BDCC and SeVEDS, Grinold said that the two are separate entities that work closely together. “SeVEDS is a stand-alone organization with its own board and finances, but it has no staff,” he said. “SeVEDS contracts with BDCC to implement its initiatives. That’s the difference. SeVEDS deals with strategy and planning, and BDCC deals with projects and programs.”
Mehalick and Lang highlighted a number of SeVEDS projects and programs, including the federal Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy plan. Lang said there were three Wilmington projects included on the plan last year, and the group was looking for projects to be nominated for the next plan.
Board member Ann Manwaring asked what significance being listed on the plan would have. “Does it mean acquiring some funding?”
Lang said there was no funding as a direct result of having a project listed as part of the region’s CEDS, but that it could improve the chances of being selected for funding. “It signals to funders that your project aligns with the regional economy and the goals we’re all working toward.”
“Especially for municipal projects that depend on federal funds,” Grinold said. “For big public projects, it’s quite advantageous.”
The board approved $5,628 in funding for Wilmington’s share of SeVEDS’ budget, to be paid out of the town’s 1% local option tax fund.
The board tabled a request by Mike Purcell, of the Hoot, Toot & Whistle Trail Club, for $2,100 in funding for an offroad bicycle track proposed at Deerfield Valley Elementary School.
Board members said they wanted to check with legal council to see if the municipal expenditure on school property would be allowed under education funding laws.
The board also heard from representatives from Southeastern Vermont Community Action and Senior Solutions, and agreed to include their annual funding requests in the town’s proposed 2019 budget.