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Deep River residents should be aware that the Valley Railroad (VRR), which operates the Essex Steam Train, is in serious violation of its town permit. The permit, granted in 2005, specifies that the only permissible busing by the VRR at Deep River Station is for school buses to transport children to the Becky Thatcher for educational purposes at certain times of the year. This stipulation is due to concerns by Deep River residents that busing for tourism purposes would pose a safety hazard to the neighborhood’s narrow roads and erode the area’s residential quality of life. In clear violation, VRR bused visitors to and from Deep River Station on July 21 for the Ancient Muster.
While this may not sound like a big issue, it is one of a number of aggressive moves by VRR to exploit the Deep River Landing area for financial gain. It currently has an application before the town to add 36 parking spaces at the train depot adjacent Deep River Landing so that it can sell more tickets to the Becky Thatcher. If approved, the project will add significant traffic to River and Kirkland streets, endangering pedestrians and cyclists. I believe it will also negatively impact the river and surrounding wetlands.
Each time VRR has attempted to expand commercial activities, the residents of Deep River have chosen quality of life over commercialization. We should do so again. I encourage all to attend the Conservation & Inland Wetlands Commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m., both at Town Hall, to oppose this ill-conceived proposal. I also call on Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson to hold VRR to its permitted activities. That is, after all, why the position exists.
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