Trails closed after excavation found
by Mike Eldred
Dec 20, 2012 | 5138 views | 11 11 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This photo of the Deerfield Ridge Trail, taken earlier this year, shows significant erosion caused by unauthorized excavation work. Forest service officials are conducting an investigation to determine who performed the work.
This photo of the Deerfield Ridge Trail, taken earlier this year, shows significant erosion caused by unauthorized excavation work. Forest service officials are conducting an investigation to determine who performed the work.
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WILMINGTON- The US Forest Service has closed two areas at Haystack Mountain to snowmobiles and other motor vehicles after unauthorized trail alterations were discovered.

The Forest Service described the damage as “significant unauthorized excavation” that “represents a significant threat of damage to the surrounding public lands and resources” from erosion. The trails remain open for hiking and snowshoeing, according to Forest Service spokesman Ethan Ready.

Ready said the trail isn’t part of the Vermont Association of Snowmobile Travelers (VAST) network, and isn’t maintained by the local Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers.

Forest Service investigator Chris Fors described it as a primitive snowmobile trail used by the Forest Service, although the rough trail was also used by local snowmobilers.

Fors said the damage to the trail appeared to have been caused by someone trying to improve the trail with a tracked excavator. Some areas suffered more damage than others. “Almost two miles of trail were affected,” Fors said. “The damage varies. In some areas it just ran over some vegetation that isn’t particularly valuable. But on the steeper slopes, there were areas with significant excavation, boulders moved, tree stumps removed. It looked like someone was trying to straighten out the trail.”

Fors said the trail alterations that were made don’t meet forest service standards. “There are no water bars, so there’s significant potential for erosion.”

Fors says the damage could have an impact on local residents, as well as forest ecosystems. “Of greatest concern is that portions of the trail pass through areas where there are public drinking water springs on Green Mountain Forest land. If a permit process had been pursued, that’s something that would have been examined thoroughly to make sure we don’t end up with damage to water sources. There are drinking water protection zones in place to protect the integrity of the public water supply.” At this time, however, Fors said there’s no indication that Wilmington’s drinking water has been affected.

A portion of the damage to the ridge trail occurred on property owned by the town of Wilmington known as “glebe” land. Glebe parcels were set aside under towns’ colonial charters as publicly-owned land. Originally, glebe parcels were leased and the proceeds were used to support the local church. In the 1800s, most of the parcels were assigned to the town or school district. For the last few decades, Wilmington has leased their glebe land at the top of Haystack Mountain to the owners of the Haystack Ski Area.

Wilmington Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick said that the damage had been reported to the town just a few days ago. “Someone went in and widened the trail with an excavator,” she said. “In some places it was cleared 20 feet wide.”

Another section of national forest land, just below Haystack Pond and adjacent to a ski trail at Haystack Ski Area, has also been closed after someone cut a new trail in that area on what had been undeveloped land. The trail runs down the slope, and into privately owned land.

Representatives of the Hermitage Club, owners of Haystack Ski Area, declined to comment on the damage.

For local snowmobilers, the bad news is that the trail will likely remain closed for the winter – or longer. “Until the area can be stabilized and restored, the order is in effect,” said Ready.

No suspects have been identified, but Ready said the Forest Service is investigating the damage. If suspects are identified, charges could be forthcoming.

“That’s something that would be up to the US Attorney’s office,” Ready said, “and could range from declination (a decision not to pursue a case) to a civil case, or misdemeanor or felony charges.”

The Forest Service is asking the public for help with the investigation. “If anyone saw something or knows something, their information would be helpful,” Fors said.

Fors can be reached at (802) 747-6797.
Comments
(11)
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VTLocalPal
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January 01, 2013
Can anyone please tell me why Barnes has not gotten any fines for any of this garbage?!?!?!?!
SnowboardVT
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December 30, 2012
Most of the work is being done before permits are in place. The mountain failed once under a different owner but the management is the same! That said the mountain has no chance of succeeding with a electrician as the mountain manager and the general manager is a general contractor. Management and Barnes have no experience in the ski business what so ever so mistakes will be made and corners will be cut! It's time we stop Barnes and his monopoly before things get out of hand!
thedogatemyhomework
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December 30, 2012
From the Rutland paper: According to the order, workers for Hermitage Inn Real Estate also built an illegal 1¼ mile snowmobile trail through steep terrain that was supposed to be conserved for critical black bear habitat, according to its state land use permit.

The order includes allegations by state environmental staff that construction workers for Hermitage Inn Real Estate had ignored state environmental officials, their concerns and violated conditions of the permits it did have and had undertaken other work knowing they didn’t have the required permits.

According to the order, Hermitage Inn Real Estate kept working for almost two months despite being told to stop.

Both the Hermitage Inn and Haystack are owned by Connecticut millionaire businessman James Barnes
ringstrue
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December 24, 2012
Uh Oh - Now he's in trouble with the Feds.
valleytruth
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December 24, 2012
now we'll get to see who,oops, how far Barnes money will actually go. hopefully the select boards will step up to the plate over this and not be just rich mens puppets/pawns like most know they are
areader2
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December 23, 2012
yes the article in the Rutland Herald clearly states who is behind this, like it should be any surprise, why can't the truth be printed here for all to see???

Instead of trying to protect these super rich, greedy, dishonest developers this paper should be looking out for the best interests of it's citizens and reporting the truth, not sugar coated fairy tales
phyllish@sover.net
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December 24, 2012
As if the Deerfield Valley News had any remote connection with the "news" They don't call it the valley "snooze" for nothing. And besides, the reaction of the folks to whom I've spoken about this story is "oh why bother getting upset about it? There's nothing we can do anyway"

Like the old saying goes: "If you don't stand for something, you"ll fall for anything"

And, probably, somebody will get paid off and the slaughter of the land for the enrichment of the very few will continue.

How can this be Vermont?? We used to be so cool!!
chap914
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December 25, 2012
Face it - thee Valley News is nothing more than a means for businesses and real estate brokers and developers to have favorable articles written about them. And the Valley News lives off the revenue. So no - while it appears that the facts were out there, one can surmises that the Valley News may not have chosen to push. One wonders if the story and its on going developments will be whitewashed in the coming edition.

As to the positions of the Wilmington and Dover Selectboards, its up to us, the residents to start to attend every Selectboard meeting and let our positions be known on pandering to the Chamber, the Developers and the Real Estate Brokers and pay more attention to increasing our quality of life, not their pocketbooks, and valuing the things that we came for or which keep us here.

If we sit still, we'll soon find us priced out of our homes, our way of life shattered, while they can just move on to where their money takes them.

phyllish@sover.net
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December 23, 2012
Read the Rutland Herald's article on this. It's Milagro Beanfield War all over again. Rich developers with no regard for the environment and an arrogance beyond belief.
chap914
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December 22, 2012
The Forest Service and the Town of Wilmington should both pursue asn investigation into these improper acts on their respective property.

The Town should immediately examine its remedies and options under the Glebe lease which has been assigned multiple time and, if possible require the current leassee to forthwith remediate the damage and restore the premises to their prior state. The Town might also consider termination of the Glebe lease.

It seems strange that excavating equipment could reach the various locations where damage has been discovered without gaining access from one of the adjacent parcels or discovery by them.

A full investigator is warranted.
phyllish@sover.net
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December 23, 2012
People should read the article on this subject in the Rutland Herald where the "real" story is printed. The culprits are clearly identified.