BLANDFORD – The Town of Blandford is all in favor of people utilizing their land for outdoor recreation. Just not on discontinued town roadways.
At a Board of Selectmen’s meeting last night, the town rejected a proposal brought forth by the Berkshire Trail Riders, a regional off-road motorcycle club, who asked for permission to use discontinued town roadways for future events.
The organization, which has long used Blandford’s roads for events, was represented by members Bob Sadowski of Granville and Jason Meyers of Hartland, Connecticut. They wished to add to a current race course in the town, which begins on private property off of Shepard Road and meanders through Virgil Lloyd Road, Route 23, and Hiram Blair Road, where it would then utilize the discontinued portion of the roadway in question.
While the gathering was small, the feeling amongst the crowd was in sync with the select board, as a 2-0 “no” was issued to the Berkshire Trail Riders representatives, though the board expressed gratitude for their appearance at the meeting. Member Adam Dolby was not present for this meeting.
Town residents in attendance expressed various levels of disapproval with the proposal, though their reasoning behind their sentiments were varied.
Levakis’ concerns stemmed from Meyers’ proposal to use Trail Rider members as volunteers weeks prior to racing in an effort to take chainsaws to the debris strewn across the road, the source of its discontinuation.
“Cutting trees is a different ballgame,” Levakis said.
While one member of the crowd proposed a waiver which volunteers could sign, protecting the town in the event of an accident while simultaneously clearing way for emergency vehicles, this was shot down by the board.
“We’ve had problems on those roads in the past, with speeders and kids drinking beer,” said board chairman Mick Brennan of many of the town’s back roads. “And when the roads became overgrown, nobody was too upset because there was no good reason to be on those roads to begin with.”
Levakis also added the need to keep tree removal to a minimum in an effort to not disturb the City of Springfield’s sewer and water supply, which uses approximately 40 percent of the town’s land.
While Brennan expressed that the proposal was worthy of consideration, other townspeople at the meeting were militant in their opposition to the proposed measures.
“I’ve got a real problem with 100 some odd motorcycles racing through roads which aren’t maintained by the town,” said Blandford resident Tony van Werkhooven. “Occasionally, I’ll get some jerk on my own property, and I’ve got plenty of mud holes because of it. If it (the road) is not being maintained and it’s being used like it’s proposed, there is no positive for this town or its residents.”
Despite the death of their initial proposal on the meeting room floor, Meyers and Sadowski took it in stride, leaving an additional grant proposal for the town to accept the proceeds from future Berkshire Trail Riders events in the town to go to Emergency Services in Blandford.
“We like to give back to the towns we’ve played in,” said Meyers, after extending the figurative olive branch to the board in the form of the new proposal.
Blandford isn’t the only town in western Mass. fighting to keep motorcycles in their communities in check, as the Town of Southwick is currently dealing with issues stemming from the American Legion-owned Southwick Motocross 338 course, so much so that area promoters are looking to take the show elsewhere.
Southwick racing luminary Keith Goyette has reportedly purchased land in the Town of Warren for $195,000 in an attempt to build a similar facility, but is facing stiff opposition from the the small community in western Worcester County, which has already amassed 200 signatures in an effort to stop the construction of a new track.
Goyette is slated to appear tomorrow night before the Warren Planning Board at 6:30 p.m., seeking site approval and a special permit to construct and operate an outdoor Off-Road Vehicle Park. The proposal for the park will include areas for parking, a facilities building and an earthen recreation circuit.