PARIS — A municipal gravel pit will likely remain open to the public despite concerns over misuse, the town manager said on Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult decision for the town to make about posting that or not allowing people to use it,” said Town Manager Philip Tarr. “I believe we’re leaning in the opposite direction, that we’re going to continue to work with folks who use that property and police it as best we can.”
The town and a handful of residents own property at the site. Tarr said the town uses their pits to obtain winter sand and gravel for road projects, as well as storage of broken pavement to be ground up and recycled for ditching efforts. One unused part of the town’s gravel pit has been set aside to allow people to use firearms. Trails used by snowmobiles and ATVs also run through the site, with the pits marked as a “park and ride” location by the Xtra Mile ATV Club.
Chief David Verrier of the Paris Police Department has said there have been increased incidents of misuse of the gravel pits off High Street. He said private owners have complained about vandalism of equipment, and in one case a loader had its windows broken out. Other incidents include unsafe operation of ATVs, littering, parties and trespassing onto posted areas. Verrier said on Monday that he was also concerned with the potentially dangerous use of firearms in numerous areas at the site.
On April 12, Verrier suggested that the town might post its property as private as other landowners in the area have done. Resident Barbara Payne opposed the suggestion on Monday.
“I think it’s pretty sad when town property that really belongs to the taxpayers is closed off, and people have to get written permission to use town property,” she said.
Selectmen said Monday that they were under the impression that Verrier was asking them to consider posting the town pit because all of the other property owners had done so. Payne said that two property owners at the site have not posted their land.
“We have to have the true, accurate, comprehensive facts,” said selectman Ted Kurtz on Monday.
Verrier said he misspoke at the earlier meeting, and that there have been no problems involving members of the ATV club. He said there have been some “near misses” of trucks almost hitting reckless ATVs or vehicles at the pits, and that the police department has increased its patrols to the area in an effort to cut down on improper activity.
“We have to take some kind of action down there,” he said.
Frank Danforth, foreman of the Highway Department, said Monday that he believes the problems have decreased with the increased patrols and that he does not think the town pit should be closed. Gerald Kilgore, who owns property at the site, said on Monday that he felt posting the town property could inhibit recreational activities as well as local businesses that sell ATVs.
“I’d hate to see it taken away from the people in the town,” Kilgore said. “The ATVs, the four-wheelers, they’ve got to have some place to go.”
Tarr said the town property has not had any problems, and he thinks other issues will be manageable and the problems will decrease over time.
“Other than what the chief had said at a couple of meetings, I don’t see that this problem is worsening,” he said.