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Reconsider the grading policy

04/17/2008

By Peter Boynton

This letter was sent to the Waitsfield Select Board, road commissioner and foreman.
   
As spring approaches and we get excited about some welcome greenery entering our stark landscape, I wonder if I could persuade you to reconsider our gravel road grading policy.

I am certainly not an expert in road maintenance, but I do have the experience of 20 years of observation from my site at the Skinner Barn property on the Common Road.

Until the past two years, I could always look forward to the beautiful vista of our gravel roads with their three- to five-foot edging on either side of healthy green grass. It was a beautiful site aesthetically and I am now sure that that bit of turf on either side of the road helped in some important practical ways.

First, it helped slow down the raging stream of water that can gather quickly and roar down the hills on either side of my property when we have our summer thunderstorms. Second, and no less important, the three to five feet of turf helped keep the gravel on the road where it belongs! Now the gravel disappears into the culvert or onto my lawn every time we have a good rain. This never happened before the sod and turf was stripped from the roadsides and this new approach hasn't helped shed the water or slow down the pothole development. The holes are no less deep or frequent than they were in the past.

The last two years have brought a marked change as the sod and grass have been stripped away at every opportunity. The consequence is that the roads look like hell, in my opinion, and the gravel is eroding and disappearing at a high rate. I see this on all the gravel roads in town now and truly miss their former beauty.

I had a chat with Stuart about a year ago as the road crew stripped the sides of Palmer Hill Road of its turf and concluded that we disagreed about the outcome of this maintenance philosophy. At the time I was advised that anyone in road maintenance knows that this is the best way to care for gravel roads, and my instinct was to shut up and leave it to the professionals. Yet as the road condition and level of gravel has gotten to the lowest I have ever seen, I see no logic in this approach and wonder if the old maintenance philosophy could be restored (i.e., restore the sod and grass on the road sides!).
    
As I ponder my spring chores to get the property whipped back into shape, I am again facing a new challenge. Last spring I spent over $500 on fresh topsoil and grass seed and logged countless hours trying to restore my lawn along the road on both the house and barn sides. About two feet of my lawn on the house side was stripped away by the grader and plows and the same amount was lost on the barn side except where my fencing made it hard to gouge out more. It's going to be a lot of work to do this reclamation process yet again.

If there is an unofficial road-widening policy that has been adopted by you folks that we don't know about, I'd like to open a public discussion about it. If it's just an extreme grading policy I hope it can be reconsidered.

Peter Boynton lives in Waitsfield
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