Chester Board addresses preserving ancient roads Conservation Committee could aid with public accessibility

The 1.6 mile Old Forge Road runs northeast through the forest to link Ethan Allen Road with Route 11 via Swett and Blue Hill Roads. During the winter, the town only plows far enough to make a turn around for the plow truck. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In the middle of a rather routine “housekeeping” meeting last Wednesday, the Chester Select Board took time to discuss the town’s 16.67 miles of Class 4  roads. Often called “ancient roads,” Class 4 roads are town-owned rights-of-way that are no longer maintained. Some are still recognizable as roads — albeit rough ones — while others have almost returned to nature.

Recently, the status of one such right-of-way, Bailey Hill Road, has been a topic of heated conversation and legal analysis. The board seems to be taking that situation as a stepping off point to put some attention into the status of the other Class 4 roads. Towns must send a certification of highway mileage to the state each year. Chester’s road list and map for 2023 is here.

Board chair Arne Jonynas said he believes that the roads are a town asset that should be more accessible to the public and the first step toward that would be to get landowners involved so that ownership issues don’t arise in the future. An example of that is Bailey Hill Road, where Massachusetts attorney Paul Bidgood is asserting that he and his neighbors own the road and want to close it to the public – including snowmobile traffic.

He then asked the board how it wanted to proceed. Bidgood attended last Wednesday’s meeting but did not comment.

Board member Peter Hudkins suggested marking all the Class 4 roads as both a way to avoid losing control of them and to begin the conversation with landowners who may not realize that an old road through their property is still a public space.

Jonynas has long been an advocate for retaining town roads. In 2016, when Quarry Road landowner Carlo Kapp asked the town to discontinue a 800-foot portion of the road that crossed his property and ended at his house, Jonynas told him, “I have a hard time giving up land that belongs to the town.”  Kapp got the discontinuance despite Jonynas’ no vote and sold the property a little over four years later.

Board member Arianna Knapp suggested a pilot program for a few miles to “test the process” and board member Lee Gustafson thought that the town could start by using the help of the Chester Conservation Committee. Jonynas is a member of that group and said he could take the idea to them at the committee’s next meeting.

Evan Parks, a Chester resident and Conservation Committee member, said he believed that the group would like to help. Jonynas and others noted that the roads could be used for recreation including hiking, biking and snowmobiling.

The next meeting of the CCC will be on Tuesday, April 2 at 5 p.m. at the Whiting Library, 117 Main St. Several members of the Select Board expressed an interest in attending that meeting.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: ChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author:

RSSComments (1)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Arlene Mutschler says:

    i dont know the whole story, but based on this article, it seems it started with a Mass. Attorney wishing to grab land from the town and from everyone that has been using it for years, including the VAST users. He apparently does not want to share? Unless this road goes right past his front door, I am sure he is totally unaware of any users?? IF that is case? then he should be charged for ALL back property taxes on the land! Going back to at least when he bought the property? If not before??? IMHO