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Snowmobilers damage crops

January 16, 2008

Staff Report

Farmers in Addison recently called state police because of a possible $10,000 in damage to their soybean crops from wayward snowmobile riders.

Brothers Paul and Mark Boivin reported that people are riding snowmobiles through their farm fields over soybean stalks. Soybeans are often left unharvested in the fall because they need to dry properly on the stalks, the Boivins reported to police. The beans can still be harvested long after snowfall and sometimes as late as spring.

They are very delicate crops in the winter, which means a four-foot path cut by a snowmobile can cause greater damage when combined with wind, the police report stated. Other crops can also be damaged by snowmobiles during the winter.

According to the police report, the Boivins' farm is posted property but the brothers have both said they would let people ride in the appropriate areas. Snowmobile riders wanting to access Vermont Association of Snow Travelers trails are asked to contact the Boivins in order to do so without damaging crops.

There is a large amount of land being posted due to the reckless or illegal behavior of a few people, the police report said.

Estimated damage to the soybean stalks is approximately $10,000, according to the police report. Soybeans still in the field look like brown sticks that are between 18 to 24 inches high and have about 15 pods in clusters of three.

Anyone with information on the identity of the people using these fields, or with questions about how to safely access fields without damaging the crops, contact Troop Scribner at the New Haven State Police barracks at 388-4919.

 

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What idiots. Can't say the number of times I have seen please stay on trail signs only to have several tracks doing just the opposite. One set is too many imho. No respect and no snow, what a combination. This and the trash thing.....arrgh!!
 

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Doesnt' look like it was directly related to a VAST trail, but that doesn't really matter. It's all about perception and around here snowmobile=VAST. What would be interesting would be for VAST, the county or local club to put up a reward of $1,000 'for any information leading to the arrest of'...... Any $ spent would be good PR to show that snowmobilers do care, and although I'd prefer to see the perpetraitors caught, if they aren't no money out of pocket.
 

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Please keep in mind, I'm not justifying what they did, just trying to ask a question that might be relevant-

In my riding experience, I don't ever remember seeing a sign that welcomed people to tool around in the powder, off the trail. I'm not saying its going to solve this type of issue, but maybe, if people knew off-trail accessible places actuall existed, they would be more willing to stay out of the on-trail only fields?

As a side note, my family owns a farm that a mile or so of a corridor trail runs through. I would put up signs giving people permission to tear up the powder in our fields without hesitation. The issue is that I don't want to put my family in a position where they are responsible should someone hurt themselves off in that powder.

Maybe an insurance expert, or legal expert could chime in on this one -

if I give permission (by way of a trailside sign) for people to go off-trail on my property, am I at risk?
 

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Please keep in mind, I'm not justifying what they did, just trying to ask a question that might be relevant-

In my riding experience, I don't ever remember seeing a sign that welcomed people to tool around in the powder, off the trail. I'm not saying its going to solve this type of issue, but maybe, if people knew off-trail accessible places actuall existed, they would be more willing to stay out of the on-trail only fields?

As a side note, my family owns a farm that a mile or so of a corridor trail runs through. I would put up signs giving people permission to tear up the powder in our fields without hesitation. The issue is that I don't want to put my family in a position where they are responsible should someone hurt themselves off in that powder.

Maybe an insurance expert, or legal expert could chime in on this one -

if I give permission (by way of a trailside sign) for people to go off-trail on my property, am I at risk?[/b]
Interesting idea and one that just might help as you suggest. I think the ski areas are an example of this. Years ago they had problems w/ fast skiing and people jumping/doing tricks. So they developed terrain parks and that has helped some w/ the problems (not to mention if someone gets hurt they have a better argument in court that the person assumed the risks).

I'm not an expert but if you have the club put up the signs allowing access to that part of your land I would think the VAST insurance would cover you. But, the best way to find out is to ask the club (who will ask the county or VAST). Can't hurt to ask and seems like a reasonable idea.
 

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Interesting idea and one that just might help as you suggest. I think the ski areas are an example of this. Years ago they had problems w/ fast skiing and people jumping/doing tricks. So they developed terrain parks and that has helped some w/ the problems (not to mention if someone gets hurt they have a better argument in court that the person assumed the risks).

I'm not an expert but if you have the club put up the signs allowing access to that part of your land I would think the VAST insurance would cover you. But, the best way to find out is to ask the club (who will ask the county or VAST). Can't hurt to ask and seems like a reasonable idea.[/b]

Back when I was in high school, I "built" 2 side by side drag strips that were about 800ft long, right off the trail in one of our fields. I thought people would love to play on those for a while, on their way through. However, since most people are so good about staying on the trails, I didn't see anyone use them. Its too bad. They were packed hard, and groomed smooth.
 

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Well, here's the answer. Ms. Norwalk took the time to give some good advice here. I guess I won't be putting any "off-trail allowed" signs on our farm after all...



Hi Pete,

Thanks for the email and for the positive post.

Vermont has several statutes protecting private landowners that allow recreational opportunities on their land. As long as the landowner does not charge a fee to use/access their property, they shall not be liable for any property damage or personal injury. For more specific information, you can refer to Title 12, Chapter 27, Acceptance of Risk by the User, Title 10, Chapter 20, Landowner Liability and Title 23, Chapter 29, Operation on & Across Private Lands.



In the case that you open up a “play area” on your property, you would be covered under the first statute referenced, however you are increasing your liability as it is not part of the designated VAST trail system. The first statute states that you cannot successfully sue a landowner for injuries sustained as a result of the risk inherent to snowmobiling, etc. However in the event they try to sue you, VAST wouldn’t be able to cover the legal expenses under our trails liability insurance. You may be better off not posting any specific signs referencing the area, rather keep it open for locals and by word of mouth. It’s really unfortunate that the world has become “sue-happy”.



Hope this helps, please let me know if you have further questions.



Think snow,



Alexis C. Nowalk

VAST Trails Administrator

(802) 229-0005 x13
 
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