ATV riders threaten Salisbury landfill

When we catch someone, we are going to impose the maximum penalty and we are going to follow through so that people recognize the severity of what we are dealing with.
— Pat Dunn

SALISBURY — Members of the Salisbury selectboard were very pleased last month when the town landfill was finally capped after a multi-year effort. But now they are frustrated that the town’s expensive project is being torn to pieces.
Riders of all-terrain vehicles  have been ignoring signs, roadblocks and police surveillance to ride onto the newly lined landfill, said selectboard member and Road Commissioner Pat Dunn.
To protect the landfill and riders both, the Salisbury selectboard this month approved an ordinance that would prohibit all ATV riding on town property. This means that even riding on town property separate from the landfill site could result in penalty.
Dunn said board members were forewarned about the damages that ATVs would cause and the challenges they would face trying to stop the traffic.
“I asked the engineer myself, ‘What’s the biggest challenge going forward to maintain this structure properly?’ and the two engineers and the contractor all said that the number-one and only issue that we’d have is ATVs tearing up the mound and exposing it to the elements and the erosion that that causes.”
Once a landfill has been capped it is critical that no water or debris gets beneath the surface. To ensure impermeability the mound is sown with a conservation mixture of grass seeds, which helps to mitigate runoff and erosion.
Dunn said the town has tried to stop riders from entering the property:
“We’ve pretty much done everything we thought was possible, from covering entrances by falling trees across them, to putting boulders around the site, to posting no-trespassing signs everywhere, to having police stake the place out, and still with all that they are tearing it up.”
It could take up to 60 days before the new ordinance is considered official. The Salisbury selectboard has already voted on it, but there will need to be a public forum followed by a cooling period before it can be officially adopted.
The effective ordinance could dish out penalties as high as $800 per incident. The town would also have the right to prosecute offenders for trespassing.
“When we catch someone, we are going to impose the maximum penalty and we are going to follow through so that people recognize the severity of what we are dealing with,” said Dunn.
As someone who has been intimately involved with the entire process, Dunn speaks personally about the current crisis:
“It’s been a long process to get to where we are now. The town supported the closure of the landfill and we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in closing it. Not to mention, the amount of time and energy that people have put in to get us to this point. To see all of that work and money be torn up just so somebody can take a ride on an ATV is definitely frustrating.”
Although town officials’ main focus has been to protect the landfill, Dunn added that “We also don’t want to see anyone flip over or have an accident after we’ve told them many times to stop.
“We don’t want anyone to get hurt, number one, but we also certainly have an asset that we need to protect.”

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