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Two Workers For Exclusive Resort Charged For Illegal Work In National Forest

U.S. Forest Service
This undated photo shows damage at the Deerfield Ridge Trail.

Two men have been charged under federal law in relation to unauthorized construction and alteration of snowmobile trails in the Green Mountain National Forest.

The illegal work was authorized by the owner of the Hermitage Inn and Ski Club, an exclusive members-only resort in southern Vermont.

The U.S. Forest Service says Mario Pizzuto of East Hampton, Connecticut, and Benjamin Fritz of West Dover, Vermont have been charged. Charges are pending against a third man.

The Forest Service says the violations involve a new trail built to provide access to the Deerfield Ridge Trail in Wilmington from Haystack Mountain Ski Area, which is owned by the Hermitage Inn. A portion of the construction took place on national forest land.

Additionally, the Forest Service says a section of the Deerfield Ridge Trail, also on federal land, was widened and straightened, presumably to accommodate grooming equipment. The Forest Service says the trail is classified as a ‘primitive’ snowmobile and hiking trail.

According to a Forest Service news release, the men used an excavator to do the work which, “was not done to professional standards and did not include sufficient soil stabilization, water barring and other standard erosion control measures.”

Last month, Jim Barnes, owner of the Hermitage Inn agreed to pay $25,000 in fines and more than $47,000 in restitution for the violations.  The Forest Service says Barnes admitted to authorizing the work, which was first discovered in late 2012 in response to complaints from hikers, hunters and others.

Earlier this year, the state charged Hermitage Inn with 15 counts of violating land use and water quality regulations for work done on the 1,400 acre property between 2011 and 2014.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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