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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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"Take a lesson from the past"

By April Smith

As a Warren Village resident, I was dismayed by the opinions expressed by Jim Jones with regard to the contested town path right of way. Mr. Jones' comments only serve to divide the community further on this issue. Communities originally made these agreements hundreds of years ago when neighbors relied on each other for basic survival: access to water or timber, a footpath to a livestock pasture or, in this case, for old Cornelius Duvall to access his horse paddock. 

This teamwork ensured a strong community fabric. Residents and visitors alike look to Vermont as a place where these neighborly values still stand. Reducing the issue to government "steamrolling over individual property rights" diminishes the debate to an "us vs. them" mentality that fails to serve property owners and the common good.

The path in question extends from Brook Road to the Warren School and crosses through a couple properties, including our own. The town of Warren, residents, and parents have tried to work collaboratively with all property owners affected by the right of way. 

Many thoughtful solutions have been proposed to address legitimate concerns (litter, trespassing, dogs) expressed by path landowners. It would be far preferable to work together to ensure resolution. Alas, all proposals that reasonably address issues of trail abuse have been rejected. With no room for collaboration, the issue is now, regrettably, being forced into the hands of lawyers and the courts. 

In light of increased traffic and speeding concerns in the village, a group of dedicated parents and residents -- referenced by Mr. Jones as the "secret Warren School political society" -- has spent countless hours working with the town to make the village a safer place for children, residents and visitors alike. The town path has for decades provided a safe, alternative route to and from school grounds. 

If permission was granted to the town to access this right of way more than a century ago, wouldn't our village forebearers wish those deeds to be respected? Wouldn't they want us to continue the tradition of neighborly access? Perhaps taking a lesson from the past may best serve our community's interests in the future.
April Smith lives in Warren.


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