Clearing the trail has been a source of debate since before snow fell this winter. In November, road commissioner Bobby Holland said he would like to plow the trail, and the board asked for a cost estimate. In early December, Holland said he estimated costs to be $13,000. At the same meeting, Sandy MacDougall, whose inn, Layla’s Riverside Lodge, is located along the trail, said he did not want snow dumped on his property and questioned whether motor vehicle use was allowed on the trail for snow maintenance. Meanwhile, Carol Ann Eldridge said that for her, the town clearing snow from the trail was a “life or death matter,” noting that her health depends on her ability to walk the trail daily.
At the time, the board tabled the discussion until easements for the trail could be reviewed. The matter was delayed further when, at the board’s December 19 meeting, it was announced that the easements could not be found in the town’s files.
But by Tuesday, the easements had been located and reviewed, including the easement for MacDougall’s property, which chair Josh Cohen referred to as “Parcel 2.”
“All of (the easements) specifically give the town permission for maintenance,” said Cohen. “And they specifically allow motorized vehicles on the trail for maintenance.” Cohen also noted that the easements are 32 feet, including the trail itself. “It’s a big easement,” said Cohen. “And it does allow for snow clearing.”
On the question of whether to plow, four board members voted in the affirmative. Board member Joe Mahon, who throughout the debate has expressed concerns about plowing denigrating the condition of the trail, voted no.
The board moved into discussion about how to fund the plowing, with vice chair Vicki Capitani introducing a motion to fund the plowing out of the town’s highway budget. Mahon said he felt at least some economic development money should go toward the plowing. Ultimately, Capitani’s motion carried, with only Mahon voting no.
Jim Desrochers asked the board how they intended to convince MacDougall to agree to the plowing. “We don’t have to,” said Cohen, gesturing back toward the easements, which sat in front of him on the table.
Per the board’s motion, plowing has been approved for winter 2018 only, after which the matter will be revisited.