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Section of Mad River Greenway closed during rifle season

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November 22, 2006

By Erin Post

The Mad River Path Association is asking local residents to stay off a portion of the Mad River Greenway that is closed during deer rifle season.

Carol Thompson, director of the Waitsfield-based path association, said despite barricades and signs that say the path is closed, some walkers and joggers continue to use a 1.5 mile section of the greenway that runs from Tremblay Road to Meadow Road.

The landowner, Elwin Neill Jr., restricts access to that portion of the path during two weeks of hunting season, in part for safety reasons.

This year, the Neill section of the path closed on November 11, and is slated to reopen after rifle season ends on November 27.

Neill said by and large, he's happy with how area residents respect the path and his land. But just a few members of the general public can tarnish a good relationship.

"There are a few that give everybody a black eye," he said.

He closes the path in part to avoid taking any risks with pedestrians during rifle season.

Just one hunter unfamiliar with the area firing an errant shot while people are walking through is all it takes for a disaster, Neill pointed out. As a private landowner, he has the authority to make sure that the chance for such a situation is minimized.

And rifle season only lasts for two weeks, Neill noted.

"I just think it's pretty disrespectful for my request, which is pretty small," he said.

Thompson said Neill "graciously lets us use his land for the Mad Dash," an annual and much-anticipated foot race sponsored by the path association, in addition to allowing the path to run along a scenic portion of his land bordering the Mad River.

But if people continue to disregard Neill's wishes, "he does have the right to close it forever," she said.

Neill said he has a license agreement with the town of Waitsfield-with the path association designated to maintain the path-that may be terminated by either party with 60 days' notice.

Thompson said that other parts of the greenway remain open for use, including the section of the path on the opposite side of the river from the Neill's land, beginning near Small Dog Electronics.

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