Hartland Select Board: “TH8 will not be thrown up!’

By Curt Peterson

On Nov. 18, the Hartland Select Board decided to retract their proposed abandonment of a section of Town Highway 8, a Class 4 road that connects Barron Hill Road and Advent Hill Road. Town manager David Ormiston said at least part of their decision was influenced by an organized public campaign against losing the public right-of-way.

Mary Blake, an occupational therapist from Hartland, had been granted a permit when she bought her property in 2016 to access TH8, conditioned on her agreement to maintain the portion she would be using for her driveway.

The section of TH8 central to discussion in Hartland is highlighted above.

Blake built a small studio and residence on the north side of TH8 where she operates an occupational therapy business serving, in part, young special needs kids, who were dropped off within walking distance to Blake’s access.

Last summer, construction activity began across the way, involving trucks. A teacher, fearing for the small children making their way on the road, asked drivers if they could be more careful, was told the children were too slow moving out of the way, according to Blake.

Blake told the Mountain Times she has relocated the kids’ activities to another area for safety reasons.

She asked David Ormiston what was going on at the site, but he wasn’t aware of the activity.

When Ormiston looked into the matter, Amy Ashline, co-owner with her husband of Green Mountain Pool Plastering and owner of the construction site, applied for permitted access.

It would be unfair to grant one abutting property owner access and deny another’s request, Ormiston said, and the Ashlines’ permit will be processed.

Select boards have authority to create and/or abandon Class 4 roads, and no obligation to plow or maintain the byways. They are mostly used by walkers, equestrians, skiers, bicyclists and hunters, and provide public access.

Ormiston, after reports of neighborhood contention, suggested the town “throw up,” or abandon, the entire section of TH8 between Advent Hill Road on the east and where the trail becomes a Class 3 road that connects with Barron Hill Road on the west.

He said he thought Blake would still have legal access to the portion she uses as her driveway, and the town would avoid any potential use dispute between the two permittees.

Both property owners asked the town to take over the shared portion and maintain it as a continuation of the Class 3 section.

The Select Board, not keen to abandon the entire road, was less enthusiastic about assuming the joint access portion.

Ormiston then suggested the unused section between the access points and Advent Hill Road might be thrown up.

“It was getting minimal use for recreation, and both property owners could exercise access directly to Advent Hill Road without using TH8,” Ormiston told the Mountain Times.

Ormiston said he felt the limited abandonment would protect the town from any future argument between Blake and the Ashlines, leaving them to settle privately.

The Select Board took his advice, and announced they were throwing up the eastern portion of TH8. Hartlanders rose to the occasion, as they often do.

A petition to stop the abandonment due to resulting loss of public access for recreation, initiated by Blake and distributed by volunteers, garnered 229 signatures. She has been using the trail as part of the kids’ program herself, and other residents saw conservation of one of the town’s ancient roads as a worthwhile cause.

A vibrant conversation, overwhelmingly in favor of “saving TH8” ensued on the listserv.

On Nov. 18 the Select Board relented.

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