Paris selectmen move to help establish ATV railroad crossingPublished on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 12:12 am | Last updated on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 10:10 pm
PARIS — Selectmen on Monday declined to sign a new contract with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad and other gravel pit owners until they determine whether the Maine Department of Conservation needs anything from the town to reconcile a recreational crossing on Gravel Pit Road.
The board voted 3-1 to send a letter to the Department of Conservation asking if it needs any more information from the town.
Since landowner David Everett posted signs barring ATVs from using the right of way, the town has been consulting with attorneys from Bernstein Shur on its options, including litigation. The town has spent more than $11,000 since January on legal fees relating to the use of a right of way to the town's gravel pit, according to board Chairman Jean Smart.
Everett has said that because the railroad crossing is a private agreement between himself, the town and the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, he's concerned that he could be liable for ATV riders who are injured when using the private crossing on his property.
Last September, Everett and the town agreed to split the $1,800 licensing fee for the railroad crossing.
The crossing is part of the X-Tra Mile ATV Club's trail system and has been for years.
A proposed new crossing agreement came before the board Monday night. Selectman Ted Kurtz spoke out against it.
“I see this as an indirect way … for one of our citizens in town to try to muscle his way through this situation,” Kurtz said. He cited an item in the agreement that he said could block the Department of Conservation from agreeing with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad to a recreational crossing.
Last week, a specialist from the Mine Safety and Health Administration told Paris residents that gravel pit operators can be fined if people are injured on the mine property.
Joseph F. Kania, small mine compliance assistant specialist for MSHA, came to Paris on May 2 to discuss regulations for mines, which include gravel pits. The town owns a gravel pit off High Street as do several other landowners, and one landowner has locked horns with the Board of Selectmen in recent months over whether ATVs can ride on a right of way that passes through his property.
Kania said mine owners must warn anyone visiting the area of potential dangers. On the access road, he said that's as simple as posting speed limit signs and telling riders to keep to the right. In the operating mine, rules are more stringent and require protective gear and training.
Kania said there are different rules for miners and mine visitors. When mine visitors exit their vehicles and step into an active mining area, he said, they are considered miners and mine operators can be fined if those people are injured.