By Erin Post

Although grant applications for two Valley towns have been denied, plans are in the works to push ahead anyway with a state-mandated project to map ancient roads.

Warren and Waitsfield each applied for, but did not receive, $5,000 in state money that would have been used to hire a consultant to guide town officials through the process of either locating and mapping, or discontinuing, unidentified Class IV roads and trails as required by Vermont Act 178, said Linda Lloyd, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District.

The state funded just 22 towns out of the 77 that applied, she said, thanks in part to the pool of available money being much smaller than first anticipated--$100,000 as opposed to $400,000.

And, with "no guarantee there will be [state] funds next year," officials from the towns of Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston have decided to work together and move forward, after discussing strategies at a recent Mad River Valley Planning District meeting.

The question was, "What can we do with limited resources?" Lloyd said.

Officials decided the best way to start was to have Lloyd spend a half a day or so looking into maps and records available for each town to determine whether there are ancient roads that need to be located.

This would at least serve as a starting point for additional research, Lloyd said.

Volunteers familiar with genealogical research may be enlisted to help as projects move forward, Lloyd said, since they know how to find records and follow a thread of information through time.

In Fayston, town officials have started to interview longtime town residents to gather anecdotal evidence, and other towns may consider this idea as well. Warren's conservation committee is also beginning to plan for the project.

In addition, there's a chance the planning district could allocate some grant money it has been awarded to conduct a workshop on ancient roads.

Although towns have until 2009 to add Class IV roads and trails to the town map, that's not as far away as it might seem, Lloyd said, taking into account the legal process towns must go through if they decide to "throw up" any roads or reinstate public rights of way. 

"Once you start backing out months for meetings and hearings," Lloyd said, the timeframe for action compresses significantly.

Lloyd said she planned to dedicate some of the week in between Christmas and New Year's Day to starting the research.

In the spring of 2006, the state passed Act 178, which states that all roads and trails that are not identified and added to a town's official highway map by July 1, 2009, become "unidentified corridors." Up until that point, towns may go through the public hearing and review process to add unobservable highways to their official map.

On July 1, 2015, all unidentified corridors will be automatically discontinued, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA).