Goring oxen

  • Published in Editorials

It’s clear that someone’s ox is going to get gored as Waitsfield contemplates whether or not to reclassify Dana Hill Road from a Class 4 road to a recreational trail.

The way it stands now, it seems apparent that either those who live, work and recreate on Dana Hill Road are going to lose their road – to their detriment – or taxpayers in Waitsfield are going to have to pay for costly upgrades to bring the road up to state standards that conform with the state’s clean water regulations.

The Waitsfield Select Board officially started the process of reclassifying that road this week and in answering to a roomful of road residents and property owners explained that the need to bring the road up to state standards for erosion, runoff and gullying would be very expensive, potentially more than $1 million, according to the chair of the select board.

Residents and owners raised legitimate concerns about their rights to access their property and about the costs of downgrading the road from Class 4 to a trail.

If it is downgraded, the same issues that plague it now – the road running downhill and into Mill Brook – will not go away and will not be improved. Those issues could worsen.

It’s also valid for people who purchase property or obtain permits for a business that is accessible via a town road have a reasonable expectation that they will continue to be able to access their property.

Downgrading Dana Hill Road is also complicated by the fact that it is the primary access point for the state or its loggers to access the Howe Block of Camel’s Hump State Forest. Does the state have any responsibility to help cover the cost of bringing the road up to state standards?

Before too much else happens, and certainly before the town takes any action to reclassify the road, an accurate estimate of the cost of meeting the state standards is needed. To rely on the select board’s broad-brushed statement that “$1 million won’t cover it” would be foolish.

Real numbers and definitive, quantifiable information on meeting the state standards must be part of the discussion. Road residents and taxpayers alike need concrete information before any significant decisions are made or oxen gored.