By Curt Peterson
Deb and Andre Patenaude posted the first listserv notice about “campers” at Hartland’s Exit 9 Park and Ride lot on Aug. 3.
“Okay, Hartlanders. I’m very surprised that no one has commented on the new eye sore that parked in the park n ride!” they posted, adding that the “campers” seemed to be stealing electricity, and the “campsite” was increasing in size.
Debbie Davis wrote a single “red Jeep” now added a U-Haul truck and a camper.
“Today…they were having a barbecue!” she said.
Some posts on the listserv were empathetic, others chided “disparaging others for being poor’, and Lillian Schmertz posted an invitation to “campers” for food and shelter. A few suggested involving the authorities.
Jeannie Brooks said, “They have unpacked the U-Haul and it seems they are living there,” adding that buses found it hard to get around the campsite.
“VermontBrowns” gave the squatters beef. They told him they planned to keep going, but lost the keys to the U-Haul.
The squatter (who asked not to be named) and red Jeep driver, told the Mountain Times a different story involving a Windsor eviction, late-night fights and dog barking, property damage and suspected drug dealing. Her story, like the others, couldn’t be substantiated. By Aug. 5, the motor home and most of the campers’ stuff were gone – only a few items remained, partially covered with tarps.
At 6:45 p.m. Aug. 5, resident Mark Boutwell reported the Vermont State Police were at the site. The next day, there was no trace of the interlopers.
Hartland resident and state legislator John Bartholomew, said overnight camping at Park and Ride sites “is not in keeping with the intended purpose”. He said the Legislature has been discussing camping at the sites and theft of electricity.
“We certainly need to be compassionate to the needs of others,” he posted, “However, since the Park and Ride lacks proper facilities, such as toilets, water, trash collection, we probably do not want this Park and Ride to become a popular site for camping.”
“Overnight camping, abandoned vehicles, and commercial enterprise are prohibited in all Vermont State Park and Ride facilities,” Bartholomew quoted from the Vermont Public Transportation Association website.
The fine for illegal camping is $50 per day.
An unintended consequence of the conflict may affect Vermont’s drive to increase the use of electric vehicles — The AOT told Bartholomew they “have discontinued the practice of installing Level 1 charging at (locations where overnight camping and pirating electricity have occurred).
There are signs at all AOT Park and Ride sites prohibiting overnight camping.