ATV Group Withdraws Application to Use Town Forest

Freedom — January 3, 2007 — The Valley Trails Association, an all-terrain vehicle club based in Freedom, has withdrawn its application to use the Trout Pond/Freedom Forest property. In the withdrawal letter, the club indicated it planned to resubmit the application at a later date.

The club’s proposed use of the property has been a point of debate among townspeople since the application was submitted earlier this year. In a letter sent to town boards that jointly manage the property, the group cited a poor definition of low-impact, which defines which activities can be used in the town-owned forest.

In the application that had been presented, the club planned to maintain 10 miles of trails on the property. As part of its proposal, the club said it would patrol the trails for inappropriate use by other ATV riders, Wade Lariviere said during a public presentation to the Freedom Forest Advisory Committee on Nov. 9. The committee serves in an advisory capacity, reviews applications for use of the property and makes recommendations to the Freedom Conservation Commission.

At a committee’s meeting the following month, members voted 3-3 on a motion to recommend the application. Because of the tie vote, the committee forwarded the application to the Freedom Conservation Commission without a recommendation.

Greg Bossart, chairman of the conservation commission, confirmed Tuesday that the commission has received a letter from Valley Trails Association saying the group was withdrawing its application. The letter was also sent to the Freedom Forest Advisory Committee and the selectmen. In the letter, Bossart said the club thanked everyone for reviewing the application and “looked forward to applying in the future.”

The letter, which was signed by Lisa Charrette, the secretary of the club, said the club’s concern was the unclear and subjective definition of “low-impact.” Both the stewardship plan and the easement on the town-owned property require that activities on the property be limited to low-impact activities.

At the December meeting of the Freedom Forest Advisory Committee, board members on both sides of the issue brought up low-impact uses. Some said that only low-impact activities are allowed on Trout Pond property, while others said that low-impact activities should be allowed but that the easement did not limit use to low-impact only.

Selectman’s representative to the committee, Donna Cupka, said the easement allows “other use permitted by easement holders. It doesn’t state it has to be low-impact.”

Charrette could not be reached for comment. The letter does not state when in the future the group would be resubmitting its application.

Selectman Les Babb said that based on the stewardship plan, Valley Trails Association will not be allowed to apply again until two years have passed.

“That’s my opinion,” he said, but added, “I’ve been outvoted before.”

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