Tuesday, March 21
BENNINGTON — More than 100 people, mostly denim- and earthtone-clad owners of all-terrain vehicles, filled the seats and lined the walls of the Bennington Fire Facility meeting room Monday to discuss how and why to start a new ATV club.

Lawrence Gates of Bennington organized the meeting to assess interest in starting an ATV club, which many believe would help keep trails open and maintained.

Recently, the Bennington Select Board restricted the use of trails leading to Sucker Pond to area residents who receive written permission from the town.

Strong leadership

The executive director of the Vermont All-Terrain Vehicle Sportsman's Association, Todd Sheinfeld, lead the two-hour meeting. Sheinfeld called on attendees to establish an ATV club with strong leadership to protect the interests of ATV riders across Bennington County.

Clubs and trails are only recognized by the state if they are also recognized by VASA, said Sheinfeld. The most important thing in establishing a trail system is having a good relationship with private landowners, said Sheinfeld.

Several residents questioned whether a legal trail system was possible in Bennington County, given that much of the land long used by ATV riders is in the Green Mountain National Forest.

Although there are no VASA trails currently on National Forest land, Sheinfeld suggested that trails connecting private land within the National Forest would stand a better chance of being positively recognized by the Forest Service.

Proper use

A strong ATV club would help establish a legal trail system and regulate proper use, said Sheinfeld. Bennington County's proximity to New York and Massachusetts presents extra challenges, he said.

"You all are in a unique situation where you could do a lot of good work and have it all messed up by some yahoos that roll over your border," said Sheinfeld.

The select boards of both Pownal and Bennington were "remarkable receptive" to allowing ATV use on town property, said Sheinfeld, but he expressed concern about the lack of an ATV club. Sheinfeld said towns like to have an ATV club to call on when problems arise.

Also attending the meeting were Game Warden Travis Buttle, Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, Sen. Mark Shepard, R-Bennington, Pownal and Bennington select board members and a representative from the Forest Service.

A second meeting is scheduled for April 3 at the Bennington Fire Facility.