Keep out. No Trespassing. These are the warnings Castleton students face each time they walk on the off-beaten path leading towards The Coffee Cottage or Leavenworth Hall.
Not long ago, a row of signs sprung up on the lawn of Mark Reinfurt, the owner of Equinox Antiques and Fine Art, located next to the Moriarty House.
Six signs to be exact, written in bold red print line the outskirts of the land to inform students that it is not Castleton State College property.
“I have lived here (in Castleton) for 20 years. I have had numerous vandalisms that have happened,” said Reinfurt.
Recently two of the warning signs were stolen and his antique lawn deer was tipped over and damaged. These incidents are frequent, inconvenient, and have cost Reinfurt time and money.
Six years ago, the college sold the house and the land to Reinfurt. When he purchased the property, debris and garbage littered the ground, and the house was in desperate need of restoration. Hazel and Joe Hamilton, the previous owners, were older and did not have the money or ability for the upkeep.
Reinfurt said he invested $365,000 and worked for two-and-a-half years fixing the house to the preserve the original specifications of the building. Reinfurt owns the yellow house, as well as the white building located next to it. Both buildings are listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places.
A fence, which had stood there for 50 years, had an opening for students and community members to walk up or down the road.
“My understanding when I bought the property from the college was that the fence would be restored back up in the place it was originally. I am trying to honor was has been here for 50 years,” said Reinfurt.
To Reinfurt’s knowledge, the bill of sale stated that the college would pay for the expense of fence being put back up, and there would be a locked gate that would only be opened for service vehicles to pass through to the Moriarty House.
“By having a fence up, it alleviates any question of doubt that this does not belong to the college,” said Reinfurt, who still has part of the original fence.
But Bill Allen, the dean of administration who has worked with Reinfurt in hopes of coming to an understanding, sees the situation a bit differently. Allen does not recall the college ever promising Reinfurt a fence.
“The only thing we said we were going to put up was a gate,” said Allen. “If he wants to put up a fence, we have no objection.”
And Allen’s idea of a service vehicle is any car that is needed to keep the Coffee Cottage running. This includes unloading food service supplies and handicap accessibility. A fence would be no problem, as long as Reinfurt keeps it on his property, Allen said.
Currently, Reinfurt said he is faced with multiple cars driving up and down the road at all hours of the day, drunken students wandering onto his property, and what he believes is dealing with an uncooperative system.
“I’m angry with the college because they think it’s not their problem,” said Reinfurt.
Although the college feels for Reinfurt, the access to the driveway is dire in order to run the Coffee Cottage.
“He knows that this is the only access to this building,” said Kari Ball, a Coffee Cottage staff member.
Each day food is delivered to the Moriarty House to help keep the cottage running. If the trucks had to park in the lower lot near Leavenworth, or the lot near the library, it would make the staff’s jobs much more difficult.
Ball said she understands that cars should not use the road if they are not supposed to be there, but also believes that staff does need access. She is concerned that if the gate is locked and Reinfurt is out of town, an emergency may arise that requires use of the road.
Reinfurt believes the only reason the college will not pay for the fence is the inconvenience. He has no problems with an opening to allow students and community members to walk to and from the campus and the road. His experiences so far with Castleton administration have left him a bit sore.
“All I ask for is to have peace and quiet to continue on with my life. If they (the college) did not want to respect me as a neighbor, they should have never sold it to me,” said Reinfurt. “I’m asking for some way to prevent the students from carrying off things in a drunken rage that don’t belong to them.”
The next step in the on going debate will hopefully resolve the problem that has been going on for so long.
“The college has been trying to work with him (Reinfurt). We will continue to encourage students not to step onto his property. That’s a private piece of property. If we could keep off it, that would be great,” said Allen. “If we stay on our side, and he stays on his, we won’t have an issue.