Snowmobiles spark furor in Sharon Springs

Board of Education President Karen Cookson is hoping an informal discussion expected at tonight’s Vi

Board of Education President Karen Cookson is hoping an informal discussion expected at tonight’s Village Board meeting will help clarify how snowmobiles may be operated in the community.

Following last month’s ban on snowmobile use on Sharon Springs Central School grounds, some snowmobilers have shifted to using nearby Chestnut Street to travel from a state snowmobile trail to a nearby restaurant and bar, said Michael Whaling.

Whaling, a longtime critic of snowmobilers, on Wednesday was granted time to speak about his concerns at the 7 p.m. meeting at the new village offices in the library building on upper Main Street.

“[Snowmobiles] have been coming down the sidewalk on Chestnut Street ever since the school banned them,” Whaling said.

As a result, Cookson said, she’s concerned about the safety of schoolchildren walking home in that area.

“At the last school board meeting, we agreed to talk about safety issues with the village,” Cookson said. “We want to work on this together.”

Operating snowmobiles on sidewalks or any village streets has been banned since January 2006, according to Mayor Omer Cousineau.

“Village law is that there’s no snowmobiles on the village sidewalks and they can’t use village streets,” Cousineau said Wednesday.

Two state snowmobile trails, designated 7N and 7F, intersect near the school. Trail 7F runs adjacent to U.S. Route 20 in front of the school.

“There’s only one legal way to get by Sharon Springs and that’s on 7F,” Cousineau said.

According to state law, snowmobiles may be allowed on the shoulders of certain roads, but only if the roads are “designated and posted for snowmobile use” by the appropriate state or local governing authority.

For years, snowmobilers have been allowed to cross part of the school grounds from the trails, with some going to nearby gas stations or the Fireside Dinner Restaurant and Pub, formerly called the Pitstop.

Whaling has complained repeatedly about noise and fumes from machines on school property near his home on state Route 10.

Both the school and the village have imposed curfews limiting night and school hours use of snowmobiles.

After several incidents this year when snowmobilers strayed during the day into areas where children were playing, the school board on Jan. 28 voted 4-0 to prohibit snowmobiles on school grounds at any time, except for those using portions of the two state trails.

“The school board finally realized there is going to be trouble, and I thank them for that,” Cousineau said. “We’ve been trying to tell them that for years.”

Even since school officials put up signs and blocked off access to school property by snowmobiles Jan. 29, there have been reports of the machines on school grounds, Cookson said.

“There were some people there last weekend,” she said. “We had a lot of snow and they were parked behind the Fireside Restaurant and there were tracks all over school grounds.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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