More of a local issue, but maybe bigger – atvs

Fair warning: I have submitted this piece to the “Times-Argus”

Something not considered in the atv story – the homeowner

This piece will create a pile of opposition, but I am sorry, it needs to be said. Just like there are good motorists and bad motorists, there are also good atv users and bad ones. The difference is we have police protection and enforcement of highway laws and rules of the road when we get in our vehicles and head down the road. There is not much, if any of this kind of enforcement and protection when atv users are on public roads and highways, especially in our more rural towns where the atv use is very popular. It is legal for an underage unlicensed atv operator to be driving an atv as a sole operator. There is supposed to be an adult on a nearby machine accompanying the youth operator but the key word here is “supposed.” It is called a recreation, but I think that is a stretch as most of the riding is in done on town roads and is very sedentary. I am going to talk more about this and other problems with the atv explosion here in Vermont.

There is a critical piece in any town contemplating allowing atvs and other recreational machines the use of town roads and highways. The critical piece is the ability to enforce laws and provide police protection to the residents because it is going to be needed. I reached out to the VTRANS Secretary, Joe Flynn last year and his advice was our town should have some sort of police enforcement and protection with the growing use of town roads by the atv community. The Town of Topsham has no interest in providing this to its residents. This is not my opinion. I was told this by a select man last year. His statement when asked if the town would contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. for policing of our roads and town, “…then we would all be getting ticketed for whatever and we do not want that in our town.” Our only enforcement of proper and legal atv or dirt bike use is a game warden. This poor game warden is stretched mighty thin as you can imagine. The bigger issue is what does this say about the Town of Topsham? It is not a compliment for sure.

We moved to Topsham from Barre 37 years ago this past September 1st. We knew we were losing services like water, sewer, police, a town library (although the Corinth library is wonderful), a full-time fire department, etc. We thought we were trading all of these lost services for peace and quiet and the pleasure of enjoying our home in a rural setting.

For most of the 30 years our trade was as we originally intended, but all has changed in the last few years with the advent of atvs and now dirt bikes. Without any means of enforcement, a town is really giving away the property rights of home owners to the the users of atvs and dirt bikes. To add insult to injuy, the local atv club is a member of the state atv organization, VASA, which opens up our town roads to the entire state atv population as our own roads have become merged with the VASA state trail system.  We have experienced weekends when we were seeing more than 300 atvs go past our house in a single day, noise, dust, and the whole shooting match included.

Williamstown recently took back the use of most of the town roads as the select board stated the noise and dust created was not fair to the residents. The Williamstown Select Boad was also quoted as saying, “…The atv users need to start using off road trails as their travel lanes like the snowmobile users have done for years and not rely on town roads.”

Barre Town has never granted use of the town roads to atvs and this was recently reported in the “Times Argus.” The Town of Topsham cannot see this at all. Home owners and our rights are lost in the bargain.

I am very upset with the legislation that made this all possible. Our legislature never considered home owners and residences in this bargain they set up with the atv community. My village of West Topsham and the piece of Vermont Rte. 25 that passes through our village have become a major trail artery. Our town is an atv magnet and we get many atv users coming from outside towns and areas to use our town roads and the State Highway. I have counted more than 300 atvs riding past our home in the village on a single day. We begged our selectboard for some help last year and after several meetings, finally got the selectboard to give the village a 9:00 pm curfew for atv use. Good luck with that as again, there is no ability to enforce any regulation. 

I believe strongly that a home should have a much higher priority than the use of a toy that is not essential transportation. The noise level put out by the atvs far exceeds what would be legal on a car. The car would never pass inspection with an exhaust system producing the level of decibles that most of the atvs produce. What I can find out about the legislation is that the justification for it was to support the business community of atv dealers and general stores selling gas and beer. Sorry, but both gas and beer seem to be essential fuels for this sport. You can go on line and find lots and lots of pictures of partying right here in central Vermont that support my statement.

I wlll say the local atv club and Chris Putney, its president, have given us much more help with the problems of atv use and the conflict with residences and home owners than our Town of Topsham selectmen have. The impression I have gotten from our Select Board is one of casual dismissal like we are just some pests taking up their time. I was told, “Face it, you live in an atv town,” by one of the selectmen.

Shame on the State of Vermont and the Town of Topsham for their little regard for the taxpayer/home owner. They want our taxes but it seems that the relationship is very one sided. My wife and I worked all our lives to buy and pay for our home and keep it up. We dreamed of the day when we could retire and find some peace and enjoy the home we have  – such a disappointment is what we got instead. Thanks (not) to the State of Vermont and The Town of Topsham.

Edward W. Pirie

West Topsham, Vermont

Published by Ed Pirie

I am a Vermonter, been one all my life. That just about tells you all you need to know. I am not much of a follower and like to do my own thinking. I value my family and a quiet existence in a very rural part of Vermont. There is a lot in the world I do not understand. My writing is my attempt to wrap my head around much that is swirling around me. Some time ago gasoline pumps changed to the way they look now. I had stopped to fill my Jeep and I could not get the gas to pump to save my life. I went inside and complained to the attendant. She knew me and said, "Ed, the whole world is changing and if you don't figure out the changes you are going to fall off the earth as it spins around." Well, I am not always successful figuring out the changes, but my writing is my way of working through some of them. I hope you enjoy.

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