Stamford

Game Warden Travis Buttle addresses the audience gathered for a discussion on ATV use in Stamford on Thursday. 

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STAMFORD — All-terrain vehicles are popular here, but many residents fear that things will get out of control if more access is permitted.

Stamford Ridge Riders is a Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association-sponsored club recently established by town residents. The statewide association known as VASA says it is “dedicated to developing, promoting and conserving responsible, family friendly ATV recreation throughout the state.”

Currently, the town has three VASA trails legal to ride: 1.28 miles on Klondike Road, 2.26 miles on Risky Ranch Road and 1.69 miles on County Road. The local club is looking to maintain and improve the trails previously maintained by other VASA members.

“We care very deeply about this town and the safety of all the people in this town,” said a local club member, who provided a presentation but declined to provide her name, at the Select Board meeting Thursday. “We are deeply invested in this.”

More than 50 people were counted in the audience just before the meeting, where Select Board Chairwoman Nancy Bushika said the board wanted to get information on the pros and cons of ATV use in town.

Some community members said they would not want to expand access for ATV use in town. They raised concerns about noise, emissions, late-night riding and litter.

Jim Williams, who lives on Klondike Road in Stamford, said he picks up beer cans left by ATV riders. He worries about people drinking and driving, noting the death of an Adams, Mass., man in Pownal in August after his motorcycle collided with an ATV.

Carolyn Brooks of Stamford called ATV riding “a part of the life here.”

“There’s good and bad in their use but in my everyday life as a forester, I see way more abuse than I see responsible use,” said Bruce Richardson of Stamford.

Plenty of trails are available that do not interfere with the peace on town roads, Brooks said.

“I’m 100 percent opposed to any expansion of trails and/or opening up our residential roads to ATV tourism,” she said, adding that several residents were scared to speak publicly on the issue or had COVID-19-related concerns that prevented them from attending the meeting.

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Stamford Ridge Riders presented no plans for anything new. However, Select Board member Michael Denault said another group previously came to the board with a proposal to open roads to ATV use.

Road Commissioner David Tatro reported seeing an uptick in ATV use in town in the last couple of years. The local club has “a lot of good people,” he said.

Stamford does not having the funding to keep up with road maintenance required when ATV use is allowed, Tatro said.

“Really, those roads should be shut down,” he said. “They shouldn’t be VASA trails at all. If the local club wants to take them over, let the locals take them over. Get VASA out of here.”

His comments were loudly applauded.

“You should have a great deal of respect for these folks who are starting this club in your town as town residents who want to help and address every single thing you bring up,” said Daniel Hale, executive director of VASA.

VASA does not solicit communities to open trails but provides resources to them, Hale said.

“We do zero marketing,” he said. “We don’t promote things on Facebook.”

Game Warden Travis Buttle said Vermont allows use of ATVs and snowmobiles, and hunting, fishing and trapping as long as the laws are followed.

ATV informational booklets were provided by Buttle to residents and he offered to hold a question-and-answer session in the future. He warned residents that game wardens were spread thin and Vermont State Police do not come through Stamford much.

Having roads open and some trail systems lead to illegal use of other properties, Buttle said. Game Warden Justin Turner said if roads are opened, ATVs will be permitted only on designated areas and not private properties.