ATV enthusiasts plan Brandon trail system

BRANDON — A group of all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts is working to create a better trail system in Brandon and legitimize ATV riding in the area.
The goal is to engage private landowners and the town and use land and small sections of public road to form an ATV trail system in and around Brandon.
Organizer Stacey Mohan said the idea stemmed from a petition she and her fellow ATV enthusiasts circulated in an attempt to get an article on the Brandon Town Meeting ballot. But that effort led to misinformation and rumor, she said.
The town of Newport in the Northeast Kingdom approved a measure last October allowing ATVs on some municipal roadways, and many people thought that’s what Mohan was proposing with the petition in Brandon.
That was not the case.
“We pulled the petition because in talking to the police chief, Economic Development Officer Bill Moore and VASA (Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association), we decided to have a conversation first,” Mohan said.
She added that the main reason for organizing to create a trail system is to try and thwart a group of ATV riders in town who do not follow the rules.
“The reason I’m bringing it up is that we have a lot of rogue riders in Brandon,” Mohan said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, probably not this year, but if we can get land owners’ permission, it would benefit a lot of people and cut down on the rogue riders.”
Mohan and her fellow organizers put together a meeting at the Brandon House of Pizza on Feb. 9. Almost 20 people attended, including Mohan, Moore, Rep. Butch Shaw (R-Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury) VASA Executive Director Chris Hale and VASA Trails Director Ethan Hale, and David Noel of The West Rutland ATV Club, as well as many local ATV enthusiasts.
If the Brandon group joins a VASA club like Westside’s, or starts its own, it would benefit from the liability insurance VASA can offer private landowners and the town in exchange for allowing ATV access. VASA would also maintain the trails, and provide signage, maps and patrols. Those services are funded by members’ registration fees and dues.
“It benefits the landowners because of these things, the landowner isn’t liable, rather than the way it is now,” Mohan said. “It would cut back on a lot of things people aren’t happy about.”
Moore said the town is solidly behind Mohan’s initiative, citing a natural tie in of ATV riders into the outdoor recreation opportunities Brandon already has to offer.
“The Recreation Department and the town are enthusiastically supportive of these efforts and ready to partner with them, to this come to fruition,” Moore said. “It’s an amazing recreation and economic development opportunity.”
Danny Hale, director of VASA, said in a phone interview that he is very pleased with the way Brandon organizers are bringing people together, saying town involvement is key.
“That’s one of the really important factors,” Hale said. “It sounds like Brandon would like to be an active ATV rider destination. It would compliment the availability of the trails for all users. That’s where the local economy benefits the most, when there are multiple users.”
Hale reinforced that VASA trails are not closed to anyone, so mountain bikers and others could also use the trail system. He also acknowledged that a managed trail system would cut down on nuisance ATV riders in town.
“In Brandon, there’s a fair amount of ATV riders, it’s just not happening under a managed system,” he said. “We’re not asking to ride ATVs anywhere. We’re asking for a managed system to allow for the use. You can’t stop activity you don’t want unless you manage it.”
Haled said it’s important to work with citizens who may be opposed to ATVs or reluctant to open their land to the use.
“We want to work through their concerns as best we can,” he said. “That’s the big hurdle for people who may not care for ATVs. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and some of my greatest allies are those who were against it and then saw change.”
Mohan said she was heartened by Sunday’s meeting, Hale’s expertise and the overall discussion moving the issue forward.
“I feel like we have a strong group of community members willing and ready to help get this going on the right foot, because it’s got to get off on the right foot,” she said.
There are plans to hold a local community meeting in March on the topic, and Hale said community involvement is key.
“We’ll work together to make the best possible offer,” Hale said. “It’s very important for me to see a community like Brandon work together to make it work for everyone.”

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