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"Impassable" conditions prompt changes to Lynch Hill Road

November 16, 2006

By Erin Post

What residents describe as impassable conditions on Lynch Hill Road have prompted Moretown officials to request that a private company knock down the size of water bars they constructed.

Although Fountain Forestry agreed to do the project on the Class IV road off Herring Brook Road that they plan to use as a skid trail in the winter, a company representative indicated he believes the work has improved the road's condition for residents.

"My feeling is that the road is in better shape now than it was last summer," said Andy Carlo at a select board meeting this month. Carlo is a forester based at Fountain Forestry's Montpelier office.

Initially, Carlo said the company approached the town last year about making repairs to the road so his clients could better access their land. When the select board declined, Fountain Forestry worked out an agreement to work on the road on its dime.

That work, however, drew complaints from residents who said the improvements made the road inaccessible to all but the most adventurous motorists.

Residents cited water bars that are four feet deep, damaging even heavy-duty four-wheel-drive trucks that have tried to drive through.

Those complaints have continued to roll in, said select board member Stephanie Venema, despite a meeting between town and Fountain Forestry officials and subsequent modifications to the water bars.

Carlo said he made changes according to town specifications, including "shaving down" one side of the bars to allow vehicles to drive into them; however, residents at the November 6 meeting noted continuing problems with access.

Moretown resident Rae Washburn said the road is "impassable with a normal, four-wheel-drive truck," an unacceptable condition for a public right of way.

"It should be open to the town people," he said.

"It's up to the logger if they're going to tear the road up to put the culverts in," added Tinker Lawrence. "Those water bars need to be filled in."

In response to speculation that the company was deliberately trying to limit access, especially during hunting season, Carlo said Fountain Forestry is simply trying to protect its investments.

"What we're trying to do is road improvement so that the road could be used as a skid trail," Carlo said.

Mud trucks and other all-terrain vehicles driving recklessly through the area have damaged water bars in the past, he said, prompting the company to construct the bars to withstand that pressure, at least until the snow flies.

At that time, skidding will begin, an activity that should quickly degrade the bars

"As soon as it snows and it's skidded on, it will be very passable," Carlo said.

In the meantime, the select board requested the company modify the water bars within the next two weeks.

Later in the meeting, Moretown residents Isabelle and Mike Keiser joined Carlo in requesting grading on Lynch Hill Road, citing dangerous driving conditions.

It's been five years since maintenance has been done on Lynch Hill Road, Isabelle Kaiser said, leaving the road with culverts in bad repair and emergency access limited.

Although heavy spring rains and a short-handed town highway department has made keeping up with maintenance this year particularly difficult, Venema said the goal for next year is to create a plan to address critical projects and to budget additional money for road maintenance. 

"You don't want to work in a crisis mode," she said.

Select board member Don Wexler added that money from Moretown Landfill Inc. in a capital reserve fund could be allocated for road repair.

"It's something I think the board should consider," Wexler said.

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