Sharon Springs Central School will no longer be allowing snowmobiles on most of its grounds.
Snowmobilers will still be allowed to use the New York State trail, Corridor 7F, which runs along the old railroad tracks at the upper athletic fields.
But the school board agreed unanimously Monday that it was time for a barrier to keep out-of-town sleds off the playground.
Whether or not snowmobiles should be allowed to cross school grounds comes up every winter: Neighbors also complain that the noise and fumes from the snowmobiles keeps them awake at night, while others worry about the safety of youngsters at the playground and leaving SSCS after hours.
After considering the issue in 2003, the board extended the hours snowmobiles were banned from SSCS grounds and the Village of Sharon Springs imposed a late-night curfew.
A Tug Hill driver crossing near the playground in the middle of the day, during recess, and traveling too fast to read the signs prohibiting it, led to the ban.
Speaking for himself and not as a village trustee—which he is—Doug Plummer told school board members Monday it’s been a big topic of discussion at his American Hotel.
“It’s like we’re all waiting for something to happen,” he said. “We know it’s not a good idea. We all know the local [snowmobile] club is wonderful, but this whole thing is very scary.”
School board President Karen Cookson said after five years, it might be time to take another look at the concerns, especially since the existing restrictions are near-impossible to enforce.
Mr. Plummer said the village went with the curfew and not a complete ban in ’03 because that’s what a survey supported. But he promised to take the idea back to the village even before Ms. Cookson formally offered it as a resolution.
There was some concern that closing off the grounds near the school would just shift snowmobile traffic to crossing at Chestnut and Beechwood Streets, angering neighbors there.
“It’s been said, if we close it off, people will make their concerns known at voting time,” Ms. Cookson said.
School board member Alan Potter said even if the school is closed down to snowmobiles, as long as the village continues to allow them, “We’re a natural flow into the village. Why can’t we [the school and the village] get together and come up with a decision that’s best for all of us?”
Ms. Cookson suggested barring all motorized recreational vehicles from school grounds, and putting up a gate and the necessary signage.
After some discussion and fine-tuning the resolution so that snowmobilers would still be allowed to use the state trail near the upper ball fields, Mr. Potter seconded it and the board approved it unanimously.
Board member Jim MacFadden was absent from the meeting.
Superintendent Pat Green said after the meeting that the board’s concern is “first and foremost student safety”, especially in light of the incident involving the Tug Hill snowmobiler.
“The Sharon Pathfinders have a huge orange sign up there…I don’t know how anyone could miss it. The board doesn’t want to compromise the kids’ safety. It’s a risk we don’t need.”