Request for Public Discussion about ATVs on Morristown, VT Roads
A special moderated community forum to discuss ATV use on Morristown public roads was held on Tuesday, July 13th at the Oxbow Riverfront Park in Morrisville (recording here).
The Morristown Select Board is considering a proposal for ATV access to Silver Ridge Road, Trombley Hill Road, Center Road, Munson Road, and Frazier Road.
Friends of Morristown Roads is asking for a robust public discussion and informational meeting with the Morristown Selectboard to hear the concerns of residents and study the full impact before enacting any changes to town ordinances that would allow recreational off-road vehicle access on town roads.
On 10/01/20 the News & Citizen reported that Morristown’s Select Board was considering a change to town ordinances that would allow ATVs on Morristown roads. Heard in the audio recording of the 9/21/20 Select Board meeting, discussion was had about opening up town roads. "[Town Administrator, Dan] Lindley said the town is planning to draft an ordinance that, if approved, would allow ATVs on a section of roads on the western side of town that could include the area of Mud City Loop and Cadys Falls" (News & Citizen, 10/1/20), so that ATVs could access the Morristown downtown from Johnson, Hyde Park and surrounding areas.
Within two weeks, over thirty landowners and citizens of Mud City Loop, Cole Hill, and Walton Road came together to share their concerns about potential expanded recreational ATV access on these roads. More than 80 neighbors in the Mud City, Cole Hill, Walton Road, Cote Hill, and Cadys Falls area alone are currently requesting to be kept up-to-date on developments related to expanded on-road ATV access.
The consensus was clear, there was universal opposition to a change to town ordinances without first having a comprehensive public discussion allowing landowners to have their concerns heard and addressed by the select board and public safety officials. Many letters have been sent to the members of Morristown’s Select Board stating as much. These letters have been mostly dismissed without addressing the questions and concerns of the citizens who wrote them.
As a community, let’s have the conversation about the vision for Morristown’s recreational economy, and public safety and law enforcement concerns.
Given how divisive this issue has been elsewhere in Vermont, and the range of impacts felt by communities that have allowed on-road recreational ATV access, the citizens and business owners of Morristown and Morrisville’s village deserve a robust dialogue that weighs the benefits and negative impacts of changing the direction of the town’s recreational economy in such a meaningful way. The Select Board must do more for our community than simply entertain the understandably enthusiastic voices of recreational off-road vehicle owners.
If an ordinance is adopted, the burden is on us as citizens to respond to the Selectboard's action by petitioning for the ordinance's repeal by town-wide vote. The state has granted town Selectboards broad authority on the ATV issue, which means an ordinance could be adopted by a simple internal Selectboard vote, with minimal input from citizens required.
It is our opinion that having these important conversations is the responsible path forward, and will enable the thoughtful examination of the full scope of impacts likely to be realized with increased ATV access on Morristown’s roads.
It is our opinion that this should include, and not be limited to:
- Municipal costs and resulting tax burden
- On-road safety statistics locally, regionally, and nationally
- Additional law enforcement burden and feasibility of enforcement
- Environmental impacts of increased recreational vehicular traffic
- Impact on existing tourist and citizen recreational experiences including, hikers, cyclists, walkers, runners, bird watchers, hunters, and more
- Net change in business revenue, accounting for those dollars that might no longer be spent. Anecdotally referenced "increases" must be substantiated.
- Impact on investments already made in cultivating a quiet, peaceful historic downtown village
- Impact on the Rail Trail if there is misuse, a federally-funded non-motorized recreation path
- Potential for lasting damage to the town forest and state forest adjacent to many of Morristown’s rural roads if a single ATV rider decides to access the trails on this off-limits, yet easily accessible land, with their high-powered motorized multi-person recreational off-road vehicle
ATV access to Vermont’s roads is a divisive issue in a divisive time, and deserves thoughtful study by Morristown’s select board, planning commission, and citizens to ensure that ATV riders can enjoy their sport without broadly impacting the community in a negative way.