May 27, 2018

Vermont author

By Rachel Gill
Observer correspondent

Brave souls creeping through The Haunted Forest at the Catamount Family Center in Williston can expect to be scared out of their skin this year. For the first time, terrifying tales scripted by Joe Citro, Vermont author and expert on ghosts and ghouls, are being brought to life within the deep, dark 500-acre wood.

For the last 27 years, over 6,000 guests annually have screamed their way through The Haunted Forest. Guides disguised in spooky makeup and dressed in black lead the way along the 1-mile path lined with 1,000 jack-o-lanterns.

The Haunted Forest is produced each Halloween season by the board members of Fun for Change, a non-profit organization established to continue the event when Green Mountain Audubon Society, after 21 years, was no longer able to host the event. In 2002, Fun for Change volunteers moved The Haunted Forest to the Catamount Family Center, where over 400 volunteers make the show happen year after year. The Haunted Forest also pays a site fee to the Catamount Family Center that helps support the preservation of the land used for The Haunted Forest.

This year, Citro has written 11 terrifying vignettes based on Vermont legend and folklore, turning the spook factor up a notch. Script writing is usually done by The Haunted Forest volunteers, a tradition that will continue next year.

“When walking into the woods I want people to feel like the ground under their feet is not safe, that anything can happen, all for a truly terrifying experience,” Citro said.

Among Citro’s unsavory cast of characters are a demon boy from Bristol, a vampire from Woodstock and a haunted bridge in Stowe.

The collaboration happened through a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Arts Endowment Fund. Established in 1990, the fund supports new work by Vermont artists and provides technical assistance for Vermont arts organizations.

The Haunted Forest’s Managing Director, Jana Beagley, who started volunteering at the forest 17 years ago, said the grant has played a major role in the forest’s “down with the mud” fundraising campaign to preserve the non-profit community and environmentally driven work of the Catamount Family Center and The Haunted Forest.

“So much of what we do is about being outdoors and preserving the forest and environment that we felt it was right to benefit the CFC and help keep the land we use open,” Beagley said. “We hope this year we will provide them with a good chunk of change.”

Volunteers spread gravel, dug ditches and improved drainage to make the trails more passable and weather resistant.

Beagley said all the hard work is making this year’s haunted forest especially spooky.

“The increased creep factor is because the stories featured in the forest really happened, right around here,” she said.


Citro, an author for 20 years, said he has been collecting “weird and bizarre” tales for as long as he can remember.

“At first I had to seek out these stories but now people actually bring the stories to me,” Citro said.

Citro had no trouble selecting tales from his collection to turn into vignettes for The Haunted Forest.

“Certain stories just bubbled to the top of my mind because they lend themselves especially well to drama,” Citro said. “I also made sure all the stories related to one another.”

While scriptwriting is a new venture for Citro, he said these Vermont tales of terror are a perfect match for The Haunted Forest.

“The Haunted Forest gave me an opportunity to write many scripts at once, something I have always wanted to do,” Citro said.

While he has always enjoyed a little horror, Citro’s intent has more historic origins.

“My hope is that it will give people a scare and get them thinking about Vermont history and maybe even get them into a library to find out more,” the author said.

[Read more…]

Teachers, supervisory union agree on contract

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The months of Chittenden South Supervisory Union teachers working without a contract have come to end.

The supervisory union School Board and town school boards ratified a new contract last week, which followed ratification from the teachers of the Chittenden South Education Association, or CSEA, last month.

The approvals ended almost a year of negotiations. The last contract expired on July 1 of this year.

“It is wonderful to have this wrapped up, the budgeting uncertainties resolved and to be able to focus more energy on improving education for our children. It also helps that we have a very respectful process with the teachers,” Jed Graef, chairman of the supervisory union board, wrote in an e-mail.

Christopher Hood, president of the education association, had a similar reaction.

“The teachers of our district were relieved that we could return to our classrooms without the anxiety of working without a contract. People were unsettled by the lack of progress in the spring of 2007, but were optimistic that the fact-finders could serve as a basis for settlement, which it did,” Hood wrote in an e-mail.

The contract, retroactive to July 1, is going through a final proofreading and is not yet available for public consumption. Graef and Cindy Koenemann-Warren, the supervisory union’s director of personnel, expect the contract to be ready at the end of the month.

Disagreements over salary and health care costs for teachers caused the most difficulties, Graef and Hood confirmed. In the end, the education association agreed to pay more towards health care premiums, Hood said.

The contract factored in other recent settlements in Chittenden County, said Hood and Graef.

Koenemann-Warren said teacher contributions to health insurance costs will increase from 10 percent to 11 percent in the 2007-2008 school year and from 11 percent to 12 percent the following year. In 2009-2010, teachers will again pay 12 percent, Koenemann-Warren said.

Though Koenemann-Warren said individual pay increases will vary, the supervisory union’s budget for salaries will increase 4.3 percent in the current school year, 4.3 percent in the 2008-2009 school year and 4 percent in the 2009-2010 school year.

According to figures provided by Koenemann-Warren, the base salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience this year is $36,825. The “average” salary, for teachers with a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree and 30 additional graduate level credits, as well as 13 years of experience, is $58,184. The top salary, for teachers with a master’s degree, at least 30 additional graduate level credits and 18 years of experience is $73,650.

“The membership of the CSEA understands that high-quality education needs constant investment, and we are proud of the work we do in our (school district) communities,” Hood wrote. “As a result of this investment, schools in our district will continue to attract some of the best qualified teachers from Vermont and beyond.”

[Read more…]

Bon Appetit honors local author

By Sky Barsch
Observer correspondent

Molly Stevens of Williston joined the ranks of author Barbara Kingsolver and cook Julia Childs recently when she received a Bon Appetit annual award.

Stevens, a traveling instructor, food writer and cookbook author, won Bon Appetit’s Cooking Teacher award for 2007. She received the award last month at the restaurant Del Posto in New York, and was featured in the October edition of the fine cooking magazine.

The award came as a surprise, Stevens said, adding she is unsure how she became nominated.

“It was a great honor,” Stevens said. “I was pretty blown away.”

Classically trained as a chef in France, Stevens eventually landed in Vermont for a teaching job at the New England Culinary Institute. Now she travels the country, teaching cooking classes in Ohio, Texas and Mexico.

Stevens was applauded on the Bon Appetit Web site for having a “knack for simplicity.” Said Bon Appetit, “Her simple, flavorful recipes guarantee success.”

Stevens said she specializes in teaching technique more than anything else.

“It’s all about understanding the whys and the hows behind a recipe,” she said.

Her students range from young people who don’t know how to cook to people who love food, read a lot of food literature and want to learn more.

Her book, “All About Braising,” won the 2005 James Beard Foundation Award for best single subject cookbook and the 2005 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award for best single subject cookbook. She has worked on numerous other cookbooks as well.

In addition, she writes for Fine Cooking, Saveur, Bon Appetit and Everyday with Rachel Ray.

Stevens lives with her husband Mark Smith and their black Labrador. Her Web site can be found at The Bon Appetit awards can be found from a link on her home page.

[Read more…]

Ski and Ride organizers pleased with turnout

By Stephen Mease
Observer correspondent

The Williston Ski and Ride Program, which has been transitioning from a Williston School program to a Williston Recreation Department program, got off to a strong start last Thursday night when 16 people attended the planning meeting for the 2008 season.

Kevin Finnegan, director of the Recreation Department, called the meeting to determine the level of support for the program that allows Williston students to learn to ski at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond on Friday afternoons during the ski season.

Finnegan initially expressed some concern about the details of the program because its longtime director Dick Farrell retired from teaching last year, but took on an optimistic outlook.

“The lesson plans from Dick Farrell are in hand, it looks like we’ll have the volunteers we need and now all we need is the snow,” Finnegan said.

There will be some new procedures for the program this year, Finnegan said. Registration materials will be handled through the town offices, along with pick-up times for ski and snowboard equipment.

Finnegan’s concerns about on-the-mountain lessons and skill testing were addressed by Lynn McClintock, a Williston Central School phys ed teacher and ski program volunteer who has worked with the first-time and beginning skiers for many years. She stressed that parent volunteer instructors, eighth-grade student instructors and personnel from Cochran’s would keep lessons and testing on track.

Marilyn Brown of Cochran’s Ski Area also attended the meeting and outlined some changes at the ski area this year.

“I’m excited to be coming back to the program my mother helped run for so many years,” she said.

Brown explained that snowmaking equipment is being installed this year to help make snow conditions more weatherproof. The ski area’s board of directors is considering raising the program fee by $5 to $10 per participant to help cover the additional snowmaking costs, Brown said.

The fees cover the cost of bus transportation, lift tickets and the ski instruction.

The next steps, organizers said, will be to schedule instructor clinics in December, recruit student instructors and review the current inventory for outdated equipment. The group is also looking into once again providing adaptive ski equipment and instructors for students.

For more information about registering for the ski and ride program, contact the Williston Recreation Department, 7900 Williston Road, Williston, Vt. 05495, by e-mail at or by phone at 878-1239. Information will also be available in the School Bell newsletter.

[Read more…]

Sidewalk construction to start soon

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Bids for sidewalk construction along North Williston Road will bring the work in well under the original estimate – albeit for a scaled-back project.

The sidewalk will run between U.S. 2 and Mountain View Road. Essex-based Ormond Bushey & Sons Inc. last week submitted the low bid of $143,068. The town of Williston will award the contract after confirming the bid meets specifications.

The work was projected to cost $830,000. But that estimate was based on a much wider recreation path and included construction of a bridge.

The project was scaled back because of problems obtaining a state wetlands permit and the reluctance of homeowners along the route to grant easements through their front yards.

The town will construct roughly three-quarters of the 4,600 linear feet of sidewalk needed to complete the segment, hopefully by the end of November, said Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden. He said the town plans to fill in the gaps next spring.

Boyden said he was “tickled to death” that the bids were so low. Even when the missing portions are factored in, he said, the completed project would cost less than anticipated.

The sidewalk is one of several segments to be funded through a $2.6 million bond approved by Williston voters in 2004. To date, only one small stretch has been completed along U.S. 2 near Blair Park.

Progress on all the segments has been slowed by residents’ reluctance to grant easements. On North Williston Road, many homeowners balked at plans for a 10-foot-wide recreation path that would have in some cases consumed much of their front yards.

To secure easements, the town agreed to reduce the width to 6 feet. But one property owner is still holding out, Boyden said. Another holdout agreed Monday to grant an easement.

The town must also win a state wetland permit before it can construct a replacement bridge along the sidewalk’s route near U.S. 2. The new structure will be stronger, allowing the town to use plows to clear snow from the sidewalk.

Boyden acknowledged the sidewalk will have gaps when the work that was bid on is finished. He said he pushed ahead with the project this year because earth-moving contractors are hungry for work and he expected to receive bargain-priced bids.

He said he is confident that the town will eventually receive a state permit allowing construction of the bridge. He also thinks the holdout homeowner will come around. If not, he said the town may detour that part of sidewalk into the right-of-way, the strip of land that runs between the edge of the road and private property.

The easement issue has also stalled other sidewalk projects around town. The bond was supposed to pay for sidewalks along Mountain View Road, U.S. 2, Vermont 2A and near the Meadow Run subdivision.

[Read more…]

Recreation Department bounces co-ed youth basketball

Few girls participated in league

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Few middle school-aged girls played last season in the Williston Recreation Department’s basketball program. Perhaps boys were the problem.

That’s the theory the town intends to test this season. Sign-ups started Monday, and for the first time the program will segregate girls and boys in grades five through eight. Younger children will continue to play on co-ed teams.

“We wanted to eliminate the intimidation factor,” said Williston Recreation Committee member Mike Healey. “There was just a general sense that this would make everyone more comfortable.”

Participation by middle school-age girls has dropped in recent years, said Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan.

Last season, a dozen or fewer girls played on teams for grades five through eight, Finnegan said. There were about 70 players altogether in the age group. The imbalance meant that most teams included only one or two girls.

The co-ed arrangement also prevented competition between Williston players and those in other towns, Finnegan said. Neighboring towns segregate the sexes at the fifth to eighth grade level.

Most other Williston Recreation Department programs field both girls and boys teams and play against other towns’ squads. With the basketball program change, “now we can match up with other towns’ teams,” Finnegan said.

The Recreation Committee has debated over the past several years whether to segregate girls and boys. Basketball is often a contact sport, and committee members wondered if self-conscious, middle school-age girls would prefer to compete in a same-sex league. Finnegan described it as a “body image issue.”

The town asked parents and players in the league to fill out response cards designed to survey satisfaction with the basketball program. Out of 54 total responses, 20 said they wanted no changes and 34 suggested changes. Nineteen of those who suggested changes said they wanted a separate girls’ league.

Finnegan pointed out that participants would tend to be satisfied with the current arrangement.

“It’s the folks that are NOT in the league that we’re most concerned about,” he said in an e-mail.

Efforts to contact parents who have told the Recreation Department that they want a girls-only league were unsuccessful. But one long-time supporter of the former co-ed arrangement said she was disappointed the town changed course.

“If you want my opinion, it’s a huge mistake,” said Lynn McClintock, a former Recreation Committee member and parent of six children who played in the league. “I’m really disappointed the town thinks this will get more girls to participate.”

McClintock said both her daughters and sons benefited by seeing that the sexes can compete on equal ground. She worries the town is now sending a message “that girls can’t do it.”

“That’s not the message we’re trying to put out there,” Healey said. “We’re trying to make room for everyone. And we’re trying to drive up the number of players. Our thought has never been that girls can’t play with boys.”

Finnegan said other factors could be contributing to declining participation by girls. The number of players in a given recreational league tends to rise and fall with the popularity of the corresponding professional sport. Girls may also be less attracted to basketball than other sports.

Healey said separating girls and boys this season could be considered a trial run.

“We’ll find out whether it’s working,” he said. “If it’s not working, we’ll address it and go from there.”

[Read more…]

Lighthouse students hike for the hungry

By Colin Ryan
Observer correspondent

Fourth-grade teacher Dave Bouchard believes his students understand the importance of helping less fortunate individuals.

That’s why he encouraged Lighthouse at Williston Central School to participate in the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger’s 11th annual Hike for Hunger on Friday, Oct. 5.

“I wanted to do this because it’s healthy for the kids, and in support of a real need. We joked about not giving the kids snacks today, to really get the message home,” Bouchard said with a grin at the hike. “But the truth is, these kids get it. Many of them know individuals in need, and they have been very good about getting pledges from their families.”

At 9 a.m. on Friday, buses dropped off 75 first-grade through fourth-grade students from Lighthouse at the Catamount Family Center. By hiking, Williston Central joined forces with more than 50 other Vermont schools participating in the event.

Many of the students had collected $25 in pledges from parents and friends in exchange for going on the hike. They raised a total of $1,000 for the event.

“It’s not just a hike,” said fourth-grader Eli Hark. “How much money you collect for this is how much you help people. I’m glad I did this.”

Some of the children hiked for personal reasons as well.

“One person I met didn’t have much food, and they didn’t have much clothes. I’m walking today to help them,” said fourth-grader Kimberly Murray.

The children hiked for over an hour, scampering along happily, running up hills, chattering and pointing at everything in sight. As they neared the end, they were a little quieter, a little more worn out. But they were proud of what they had done.

“The point is to get tired,” said fourth grader William Yakubik. “It’s healthy for us, and we raise money for people who don’t have enough food.”

He raised both his arms in a victory pose, and shouted, “Hike for Hunger rules!”

The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger is a nonprofit organization that combats hunger statewide through advocacy, education and technical assistance.

“There are anywhere between 19,000 and 20,000 children in Vermont who are considered ‘hungry,” said Eve Frankel, the campaign’s Community Relations Officer.

Added the campaign’s program director, Joanne Heidkamp, “Hungry’ refers to any household that, due to lack of money, can’t consistently provide its members with enough nutritious food in order to live a healthy life. When the unexpected car repair or the leaky roof just empties the budget, and you’ve simply got to have a roof over your head, food becomes a flexible item. A typical food shelf might be able to give a family a three-day supply. For kids to know consistently where their next meal is coming from, the school meal program we work to establish is essential.”

Heidkamp said only 50,000 of the 90,000 Vermonters who qualify for food stamps are enrolled in the program.

“So you can see that raising awareness is a major part of our work here. Food drives alone will not beat hunger,” Heidkamp said. “To really address hunger, it takes a comprehensive safety net of programs. School meals are critical, childhood nutrition programs as well. We also have a daycare meal program, but Vermont ranks 49th in the nation in its use of this program.”

Information on VTCECH, hunger in Vermont, and federal nutrition programs is available at For information about the Food Stamp Program — including eligibility guidelines and a printable application — visit

[Read more…]

Growth center group recommends Williston

Town could be first in state to win status

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Efforts to tame sprawl around Taft Corners received a boost last week as a state committee recommended growth center status for the commercial hub.

The Planning Coordination Group, or PCG, unanimously voted to approve Williston’s application for the designation. The Expanded Downtown Board, which has the final say, is scheduled to consider the application later this month.

If approved, the Taft Corners area would become Vermont’s first officially designated growth center. Established under legislation passed in 2006, the growth center program aims to reduce sprawl by concentrating growth in specific areas.

Winning approval would help shape Williston’s future growth. The town’s Comprehensive Plan calls for dense development connected by grid streets around Taft Corners.

The idea is to remake the district into a pedestrian-friendly downtown, with a mixture of housing and commercial buildings. It is now mainly a car-centric haven for big-box stores.

That transformation, however, depends in part on expensive transportation improvements, specifically new grid streets and sidewalks that would cost millions of dollars.

Growth center status makes towns eligible for tax increment financing. A mechanism to fund infrastructure improvements, it allows towns to borrow money against anticipated property tax revenue increases generated by new development.

The program also eases rules for new development. Developers who build projects in the growth center pay smaller fees to offset the use of agricultural land. Williston has already won interim approval to use that tool to guide development.

The Planning Coordination Group’s vote to recommend approval of Williston’s growth center came after a lengthy meeting on Sept. 26.

Town Planner Lee Nellis said Williston got the committee’s recommendation largely because it worked hard to allay concerns expressed by interest groups involved in the process.

“In the end, we got both the smart growth people and the business groups to support us,” Nellis said. “The fact that the town was willing to be cooperative was key.”

The PCG imposed several conditions as part of the recommended approval. They require Williston to become a member of the Chittenden County Transportation Authority, ensure town bylaws support smart growth, add sewer capacity and support other infrastructure improvements.

Downsizing the design

The town also altered the growth center’s boundaries. As originally proposed, it would have encompassed about 1,400 acres, running from the eastern end of the Williston Village west to an area about halfway between Harvest Lane and South Brownell Road.

That area was later cut roughly in half. The growth center now extends just past the South Ridge subdivision to the east and excludes Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and two nearby parcels to the west. The other boundaries run north to Allen Brook and south to Interstate 89.

Nellis said the originally boundaries were designed to comply with a requirement that village centers be adjacent to growth centers. But he thinks the downsized district will pass muster if program rules are interpreted to allow Williston’s configuration, which features a historic village and a commercial center separated by a largely undeveloped area.

Brian Shupe, program director for Burlington-based Smart Growth Vermont, said his organization thought the growth center as originally proposed was simply too large. He said such a huge area would encourage the same sort of scattered development that the program was intended to prevent.

Shupe, whose organization recently changed its name from the Vermont Forum on Sprawl, acknowledged that Williston’s reputation as the poster child for ill-considered development makes it an unusual candidate for the program.

“The irony was not lost on us,” said Shupe. “That is what made this particularly challenging. The town in the past made land-use decisions that for better or worse led to sprawl.”

But Shupe said he was pleased that the town listened to the concerns of his group and other organizations. He said Williston deserved credit for “reaching out to the different interest groups and building consensus.”

Though Williston has in the past been known as the town that allowed development to run amuck, its more recent land-use policies and efforts to meet growth center rules helped it win approval, said Joss Besse, coordinator of the Vermont Downtown Program.

“I think the legislation recognized that Vermont will continue to grow, so the question really is where and how, not whether we will grow,” Besse said in an e-mail. “While some may wish we could go back in time and change past decisions, really all we can do is start from where we are and move forward. I think the PCG felt the town had made a strong effort to do the kind of planning expected in the statute, which led to the unanimous decision to recommend approval.”

The Expanded Downtown Board is scheduled to meet on Monday, Oct. 22 in Montpelier to consider the PCG’s recommendation and possibly vote on Williston’s application.

[Read more…]

Geographic walk brings seminar to life

By Greg Duggan
Observer Staff

A group of local teachers and town officials stood atop Five Tree Hill Saturday morning, taking in the view of Lake Champlain as part of a three-hour ecological tour of town.

Now, armed with interesting facts about the natural and human history of Williston, the group plans to share the knowledge with students and residents.

“My goal is broad-based, to bring the connection to the landscape to all residents of Williston,” said Carrie Deegan, the town’s environmental planner. “We’re working on that in the school level and in some adult presentations. We hope to culminate in a community visioning event early next year.”

The walk occurred as part of the Williston Geographic workshop meant to educate residents about the town. The three-month program is sponsored by Shelburne Farms, the University of Vermont PLACE Program, the Williston Conservation Commission and the Williston Historical Society.

Led by Jesse Fleisher, a graduate student in the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and naturalist Alicia Daniel, the walk followed and supplemented a presentation on Sept. 26 entitled “Forests, Fields & Rocks: the Natural Landscape of Williston.”

Fleisher said he chose Five Tree Hill because so many elements of the human and natural history of Williston are visible, from old cellar holes and stone walls to exposed bedrock and views of forests and waterways.

Several teachers from Allen Brook School and Williston Central School left the walk eager to bring the lessons back to students, as many classes are planning or in the midst of projects tied to nature.

“I wanted to learn more about Williston and help students feel more connected to their home base,” said Marybeth Morrissey, a Journey House teacher at Williston Central School.

Margaret Munt, a Discovery House teacher at Allen Brook School, learned on the walk that leaves from a cedar tree can be used to make tea for a source of vitamin C.

“It’s tidbits like that I’ve been able to share with my children that they’ve been completely fascinated by,” Munt said.

Debra McConnell, a teacher in Verve House at Williston Central School, and Michael Kellogg, a teacher in Calliope House at Allen Brook School, both said they enjoyed learning about the former shoreline of Lake Champlain, which extended into Williston more than 10,000 years ago.

A tour for residents followed later in the day.

“Plenty of people these days don’t get out as much as they want to into the woods,” Deegan said. “You lose touch with the landscape around you, if you’re just going to work and coming back to the house. It’s good for people to get out and see what they’re living in.”

The next presentation in the Williston Geographic series is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Williston Central School Auditorium. The presentation is titled “People and the Williston Landscape: A History of Change.”

[Read more…]

Firearm ordinance back on the agenda

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard will revisit the controversy over hunting on publicly owned land next week.

The board’s Oct. 15 session will include a discussion of the firearm ordinance, which prohibits firing rifles, pistols and revolvers in most of the area north of Interstate 89. The ordinance also forbids the use of those guns – even in rural areas south of I-89 – within 500 feet of any building, road or trail, or in any public park or recreation area.

That last provision prompted hunters to ask for changes, said Carrie Deegan, the town’s environmental planner. Greg Paulman, a Williston hunting safety instructor, proposed allowing some hunting on town-owned land south of the interstate.

Paulman could not be reached for comment. But Deegan said he and others thought town rules should permit the use of public land by everyone, even hunters.

“He came to us expressing the concern that there was no legal town land to hunt on,” she said.

The proposal, however, generated vociferous opposition among other residents during a public hearing last month. A group of homeowners who live in the rural Brownell Mountain area led the opposition.

“My property abuts that land,” Julie Bonanno said at the Sept. 17 meeting. “I have 10 acres and I like to walk it. I don’t want to have to worry that my head might get blown off by a stray bullet or a ricochet.”

Selectboard member Andy Mikell was the only board member who took a position at the meeting. He said he was opposed to opening town-owned land to hunting.

Mikell and town staff have worked on revisions to the original proposal over the past few weeks.

The Conservation Commission had proposed allowing firearms to be discharged on public land south of the interstate unless the Selectboard specifically prohibited it in a given area. The proposal kept the current restriction on firing a gun within 500 feet of any building, but the required distance from public trails would be reduced to 100 feet and to just 10 feet from roads.

The rule revisions suggested by Mikell would keep the existing ban on firearm use on town-owned land or within 500 feet of any marked public trail. He also wanted to extend restrictions to “land under grant of conservation rights or restrictions.”

But in a memo, Deegan said that would be unwise since it could include private land that includes a conservation easement. She wrote that the town would have no legal right to impose a restriction in those cases.

Still being debated is whether to permit shotgun use on public land. Town officials acknowledge that current rules are vague on that type of firearm.

Deegan’s memo said the town might consider allowing shotguns to be fired on town-owned land south of the interstate as long as they were loaded with loose shot.

“Just a thought,” she wrote. “It’s arguably much ‘cleaner’ to just prohibit all firearm discharge, but shotgun use would allow bird hunters to use town land with much reduced safety concerns (shot is rarely dangerous outside of about 200 feet, as opposed to thousands for a high-powered rifle).”

The Selectboard will debate the proposed changes on Monday, but it will likely wait until a future meeting before making a ruling, said Town Manager Rick McGuire.

The board could vote to adopt the Conservation Commission’s original proposal, he said. But McGuire thinks the board will instead alter that proposal, which would require the town to hold another public hearing.

Mikell said it’s clear that there are two very different points of view on the issue and further testimony may not change anyone’s mind. Still, he said he welcomes more public comment.

“People feel passionately about this,” Mikell said. “That’s fine. Come to the meeting and tell us about it.”

[Read more…]