DOVER -- While discussing a program that ensures towns can keep their rights of way, Town Clerk Andy McLean told the Selectboard even the most obscure roads or trails that don't come up during a title search could be included.
"There's state law that's been enacted that says the town owns all these rights of way (even though ) they may have been instituted in 1795 and they're not used currently or not much and there's no easy way to find it," said McLean.
The state's Ancient Roads program requires that municipalities begin sending in documentation that those rights of way do in fact belong to the towns.
On Dec. 17, the Dover Selectboard discussed the program, which will have two deadlines for towns that want to be included in the state highway map. If the town wants to keep any of its rights of way, it must submit all those it wants included by Feb. 20 of next year.
By the same date of this year, the state highway map will be updated, so McLean wants to get started as soon as possible.
"We need to get all theses roads on the state highway map if we want to preserve them as public rights of way," he said.
Dick Joyce was hired to conduct a study on Dover's roads, which McLean then looked at and decided which rights of way the town would obviously not want to lose.
"I can put together some information. If you want to send it up to AOT (Agency of Transportation) and have them put it on the state highway map, we can do that," said McLean.
When the board looked at the maps that McLean presented, Selectboard member Tom Baltrus saw part of his property had been included as a public right of way.
"That's my driveway!" he exclaimed, laughing.
Later, Baltrus said that it would be fine if the town wanted to include that land on the map. It is currently being used by snowmobiles.
McLean mentioned in his first draft that he included National Forest land, which highlighted a Mount Snow/Haystack ridge, a piece of property on Dover Hill Road and forest by Dorr Fitch Road. For example, he said the Mount Snow ridge could not be accessed unless someone walked across private property.
"One of the things they do (in the program) is provide the public with access," added McLean. "In a resort community, it's valuable."
When Dover Economic Development Specialist Ken Black asked if those rights of way that lead to trails could be marketed, McLean confirmed those could.
Before deciding to move forward on this project, Selectboard Co-Chairwoman Victoria Capitani stated that she didn't think the town was prepared to give away any of the rights of way at this point.
McLean told the board that this February would be the "first go around." While coming up with the map to present the board, he wanted to prioritize by showing the rights of way that gave access to the National Forest or those heavily used by the public.
"(I listed the) stuff that was obviously on the ground and people use currently and that's not a problem currently. The stuff you may call a no-brainer," said McLean. "There's other stuff on here that might be nice to have and not necessarily used right now."
He mentioned that next year's work may be "more complicated than coming up with Selectboard minutes from 1795."
The earliest right of way that was found during the study in Dover was from 1785. Currently, the furthest a regular title search goes back is 140 years.
"If there's no evidence on the ground, that creates the real issue," McLean said.
The issue of warning a submission to the program was brought up. Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk called for holding public meetings where residents could weigh in on the process for next year's submission.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.