Trustees hear pump track and public safety citizen committee proposals

Proposed location of the pump track near Oak Hill trails
Proposed location of the pump track near Oak Hill trails. Photo by Betsy Thurston

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the Bellows Falls Police Department and a pump track proposal by the Development Office.

Development Director Gary Fox asked the Trustees to authorize a written consent for construction of a pump track behind the Recreation Department’s ballfield on the Oak Hill trails.

Fox explained the proposal started two years ago with the Windham County Trails Alliance requesting an agreement with the town to maintain and expand trails developed by the Youth Conservation Corp over a decade before. WCoTA is working on the expansion in collaboration with Bald Hill Trails, Bellows Falls Riverfront Scenic Park Trails, Bellows Falls Community Bike Project, Rockingham Recreation Department, and the Development Office.

They plan to develop a trail system to produce economic development for the town and village while offering the opportunity to teach mountain biking skills. Fox said pump track was like a “mini version of dirt bike racing” and the program has begun with school groups and the recreation department at Central Elementary School with physical education teacher Peter Lawton. The trails will be utilized by CES with radio-powered cars, at Bellows Falls Middle School with BMX bicycles, and at BFUHS with mountain bike training.

Fox mentioned a youth behavioral assessment survey and described the benefits of outdoor activities, especially mountain biking for those at risk for drugs and alcohol.

Resident Alex Stradling proposed the development of a citizen committee for public safety and policing. James McAuliffe said it was important first to “establish some goals or priorities” with the new manager and Police Chief and suggested more social media presence.

Jeff Dunbar thanked Alex for bringing this forward. He said it was “a great idea and having a collective voice from the community is a desirable thing.”

Wade Masure agreed, “Only something positive can come from [this],” and suggested the board establish clear expectations with newly appointed Chief David Bemis.

McAuliffe agreed, “This is an opportunity for us to get a better understanding.”

Village President Deborah Wright also agreed. “They need a voice. Our police department hasn’t really changed… Citizens have every right to form a committee.”

Stradling explained he wanted to see the police chief form “proactive steps” instead of “responding to complaints” and suggested the BFPD “offer a vision with budget and the future.”

Stradling said we should “foster less us versus them” and suggested a community hearing.

The search for a new municipal manager was down to two candidates. The next Joint Board meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.

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