We recognize that not everyone may be affected the same way by the presence of all-terrain vehicles. This is our experience. My wife Cynthia and I are heading into our third year of trying to inform and educate others about what it is like to have ATV noise on your residential road, 24/7 from March through December.
First, there are many upstanding, law-abiding, and respectful ATV riders. But there are not just a few bad eggs who ruin it for everyone else. Our unfortunate experience was that there are a lot of the few bad eggs who do not care about their impact on other peoples’ lives.
Our home and land parallels Silver Ridge Road in Morristown. It is our chosen retirement home. It was meant to be our last move. We hope we will not be forced to leave it because of someone else’s hobby.
A mismanaged and not-very-well-thought-out ATV trial on our road by the Morristown Selectboard to let the Green Mountain ATV group use our road was essentially forced onto families along our road in 2019. Our road was opened to ATVs for the convenience of riders in Hyde Park and Eden, to be able to ride up to the gas pump and to get snacks in town. Residents were not asked for their preferences on rules, days of usage, time guidelines for use, who could use our road, or anything to do with what so adversely impacted and affected our lives. In fact, we were not informed that the trial was starting until ATVs just started coming up and down our road.
Soon, the end lot at the Sunset Motor Inn became a trailhead, which allowed riders from all over Vermont, New England and further south to park trailers full of ATVs and side-by-sides at the lot and then ride onto our road, all the way to Newport and back — at all hours. Overnight, Silver Ridge Road became a superhighway for ATVs.
We could hear these machines inside our home, but when outside, we could not have a conversation, sit on our front porch quietly with a coffee, or eat dinner on our deck to enjoy the sunset!
It took us over two years, endless letters and emails, hiring a personal attorney, and far too many precious hours, days and sleepless nights of our lives to finally get what was supposed to be a six-month trial stopped. There are still those riders who feel they are still somehow entitled to use our road.
Even after being awakened in the middle of the night several times by ATVs, we are still not anti-ATV, as long as they are used on real ATV trails. Unfortunately, trails are currently defined by GMATV, as “anywhere an ATV goes.”
We are against ATVs on Morristown roads and in our residential neighborhoods where they are too loud, too unsafe for other people, their children, their pets, and their livestock. Even the nicest family out for a fun day on their ATVs does not realize that their machine is way too loud and disruptive around people’s homes.
Residents should be aware that except for January and February, we had ATVs on our road, not just the usual May 15 to Oct. 30 season that Green Mountain ATV claims.
The Consumer Federation of America, which ultimately wrote a letter directly to each selectboard member and town official on April 16, stated what a public health crisis ATVs on roads has become, and urging our town to oppose any proposal to allow ATV use on public roads. The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, representing manufacturers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the ATV Injury Prevention Task Force, Concerned Families for ATV Safety, the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, the Trauma Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, University of Vermont Medical Center, and so many other organizations oppose letting riders on public roadways. Even the Vermont ATV Sportsmans Association is opposed to on-road use and recommends riders to stay off roadways, altogether, except when crossing a road to get to a trail.
Again, Morristown has no ATV trails.
But regardless of any rules or guidelines for ATV riders on Silver Ridge, they simply weren’t followed. There is no enforcement for excessive speeding or other types of rider offenses. Law enforcement departments in Lamoille County are neither large enough nor equipped to enforce ATV offenses.
Recently, there were numerous ATVs reported on Munson Avenue and Northgate Shopping Center. Imagine the audacity of a bunch of riders driving down Center Road when none is allowed, crossing Route 15, which requires Vermont Agency of Transportation permission, and for a quick bite. They told a Morristown police officer they didn’t know they were in Morristown despite the signs on both sides of Center Road saying, “No ATVs Allowed.”
These connector roads that ATV proponents keep talking about are not connected to trails. They are connectors to other roads.
So, what are the benefits for Morristown residents in having ATVs on our roads?
Revenue for town businesses is the only positive, riders can mention. A few may benefit, but just how much shopping can be done on an ATV? At five gallons of gas per ATV, do you seriously believe stores, who don’t make their profits from gas sales anyway, are going to make money from ATVs riders?
And won’t ATVs completely change forever the character of our quaint, arts-filled, and forward-thinking town?
If you do vote yes to ATVs on any Morristown roads, they will be on your residential street or road all too soon. Do not regret later that you’d taken this vote more seriously, whenever it is held.
Thomas Cloutier lives on Silver Ridge Road in Morristown.