Panel working on sled routes

A six-member committee of snowmobilers, school board members and village officials agreed Thursday t
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A six-member committee of snowmobilers, school board members and village officials agreed Thursday to work toward an alternative route for snowmobilers to legally drive their sleds to village restaurants and gas stations.

Committee member Doug Bartlett, vice president of the Sharon Pathfinders snowmobile club, suggested a new route from state trail 7F be allowed to use about 100 yards of Sharon Springs Central School property and private land just west of the school to reach U.S. Route 20.

The latest flare-up in years of debate over snowmobiles in the village followed the Board of Education’s Jan. 28 decision to prohibit snowmobiles from crossing school property from a state snowmobile trail to reach gas stations and the nearby Fireside Restaurant and tavern on U.S. Route 20.

The ban was enacted after at least one recent incident when a snowmobiler sped through school grounds while children were playing outside.

Since then, Mayor Omer Cousineau said snowmobiles have been using Chestnut Street just west of the school as a link to restaurants and filling stations.

Cousineau and Deputy Mayor Joan Jozifek were agreeable to seeking a compromise route. But Cousineau stressed that the Jan. 19, 2006, village law, which includes an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and bans snowmobiles from entering or exiting village streets, will remain in effect.

“The problem is the trust of the school board and the village was violated,” said Cousineau, the committee chairman.

“We want to find a compromise,” said school board member Alan Potter. “The driving force is safety … We’re more concerned about the 380 children we have [at the school].”

“It only takes one accident,” Potter said.

Bartlett said he had not yet checked with a property owner on the proposed alternative route who also is renovating a large house on nearby Chestnut Street.

School board Vice President James MacFadden Jr., a snowmobile advocate, agreed with allowing use of school property, but acknowledged the board is split over the ban.

“Our goal is to maintain safe trails,” said Jon Karker, Sharon Pathfinders snowmobile club president. “Enforcement is the key.”

He said he has requested that state police, sheriff’s department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation increase patrols.

“One [patrol] car here could correct the situation,” Karker said.

While several snowmobile advocates agreed, some business owners were worried more police might hurt local business.

“When police sit at my restaurant, that also hampers my business,” said Anne Kelly, who runs the Fireside Restaurant.

“I can’t have a state trooper sitting in my parking lot,” she commented from the audience.

Karker and Doug Bartlett, vice president of the Sharon Pathfinders, said snowmobilers, including members of the 260-family Sharon Pathfinders, infuse the area’s economy with a significant amount of money during the December-to-March season.

Bartlett said the village is a good stopping point for snowmobilers riding trails from a 40-mile radius and back.

“We had one good weekend,” said Log House Minimart owner Tim Schilde.

“We had a $9,000 increase in sales over three days,” he said.

“If there’s $5 to be made, you shouldn’t turn your back on it,” commented local fuel oil dealer Ray Parsons.

At the same time, Parsons doubted the suggested alternative would be allowed by the private property owner. Parsons said the school signs banning snowmobiles have been observed, so the village “should learn a lesson and put up prominent signs” to designate an authorized and clearly restricted route.

Categories: Schenectady County

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