Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grants aim for pedestrian friendly Milton

Milton Independent
By NATHAN LAMB Milton Independent Staff Writer

Grant funds will underwrite one mile of new sidewalk alongside Route 7 this summer, and they may also fund street light upgrades for the old town area in the not-so-distant future.

Construction on the new sidewalk began on July 28, and the finished product will run alongside Route 7 from Kinney Drug until just before Nancy Drive, according to town engineer Andrew Legg.

Conversely, the town is just getting started on the lighting grant, which will be open for public comment before the Selectboard at 7 pm on Aug. 4.

While details of that application are still being hashed out, the proposal centers on upgrading and replacing streetlights along Main Street, Cherry Street, and Route 7 between the Arrowhead Dam and Barnum Street, said town planning director Regina Mahoney.

Overall, she termed both projects as the outgrowth of work compiled from the town's access and mobility committee, which recommended back in 2001 that the town put more focus on sidewalks and other pedestrian amenities.

“The town has certainly been moving that goal forward,” she said.

The Selectboard awarded a $314,750 contract for the sidewalk earlier this summer; and that agreement stipulates a completion date of Oct. 15.

Once complete, the sidewalk will be five-foot wide, concrete, and separated from Route 7 by at least five feet of grassy median, said Legg.

The construction zone—known historically and in planning documents as Checkerberry-- is largely sidewalk-free, but has seen accelerated residential and commercial development in recent years, explained Legg. That being so, he said it's important to provide something besides the shoulder of a state highway for pedestrians, children on bikes, and people using wheelchairs.

“The average daily traffic on Route 7 is over 10,000 cars,” he said. “We've all witnessed the volume of traffic on that road, and it's important to separate the pedestrian from vehicle traffic.”

“It's also really important to link the isolated residential developments along that corridor with the commercial, municipal, recreational, and school facilities in the town core,” he added.

Some 90 percent of the project cost will be covered by state and federal highway grants. Local impact fees from new development are covering the remaining 10 percent, said Legg.

“There are no general fund dollars going into this,” said Legg.

The sidewalk was initially envisioned as running north to the junction of Route 7 and West Milton Road, but the close proximity of Route 7 to the Checkerberry Cemetery became a stumbling block with the application and that portion was cut, said Legg.

Once revised, the application was awarded in 2004 and Legg said that initiated the lengthy design and permitting process required for federal dollars.

Having seen that process through, Legg is eager to see shovels in the ground, and is optimistic that Checkerberry residents will feel likewise.

“I'm very excited to see this go to construction,” he said. “I think sidewalk projects are typically very well received by the community because they have obvious benefits.”

The lighting grant is also federal, but administered through Vermont Transportation Enhancement Program, said Mahony.

If secured, the grant would underwrite three phases of lighting upgrades, which would replace existing lights in the old town area with an antique-style lighting and perhaps add some lower fixtures that would specifically light the sidewalks.

The exact details of that are still open to discussion, said Mahony, though she indicated the latter scenario may improve the town's chance of getting the grant: On a previous application (which was rejected) the town was told that simply replacing the existing lights didn't reflect enough of the grant's multimodal focus, since it was considered more of a benefit for cars than pedestrians.

The rationale behind the grant is that better lighting makes for better walking, explained Mahony.

“I think the lights will make you feel a bit more safe as pedestrians and give you a sense of place, that this is somewhere you would want to walk,” she said.

If secured, the lighting upgrades would be in three phases. The first would cover Main Street, while the second would cover River Street from the dam to Cherry Street. The final phase would cover River Street between Cherry and Barnum streets.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $375,000, of which the town would be required to contribute 20 percent, or $75,000.

Submission of the grant application is up to the Selectboard, which previously endorsed the project in a pre-application letter-of-intent. It was also part of the town's capital improvement plan for 2010, said Mahony.

Word on the application should be forthcoming by January of 2009, and the project would likely clear permitting and federal oversight by 2011 or 2012, she added.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Survey: We Want To Walk

Written By Michelle Monroe

Town rec’ paths, sidewalks high on list

ST. ALBANS TOWN — Tuesday night the St. Albans Town Planning Commission discussed the results of a survey conducted during the period surrounding a May 20 revote on the town’s municipal budget.

The survey queried voters on what recreational facilities they use, what kinds of facilities they would like to see, and asked their views on proposed changes to existing facilities.

The overwhelming favorite on the list of desired facilities were biking and pedestrian paths, with 51 percent of the 421 voters who completed the survey stating that they would be willing to pay for new recreational trails with tax dollars.

Forty-four percent supported new walking and hiking trails.

An indoor ice arena was third with 29 percent saying they would be willing to support such a project.

“If we get anything out of this, it’s that people want places to walk,” commissioner Cheryl Teague said.

The results provoked a discussion of the lack of sidewalks in the town. Paul Larner, vice chairman of the Development Review Board, pointed out that new developments are often required to put in sidewalks that then don’t connect to anything because the town selectboard has not supported sidewalks.

“We had the money for a sidewalk from Main Street to Collins Perley (Sports & Fitness Center) and the selectboard said (to) give it back,” said Teague.

Commissioner Steve Wechsler asked why the money was returned and Teague replied that the town did not want to plow it.

The facilities town residents reported using most frequently were: Collins Perley, Hard’ack Recreation Area, and Bay Park, in that order, with 62 percent of respondents saying they use Collins Perley more than twice a year. This was a marked increase from 1998 when a similar survey was conducted.

Use of the Bay Park had declined slightly from 53 percent of respondents to 45 percent of respondents using the facility two or more times per year.

Other than the Bay Park, use of all recreation facilities in the St. Albans area had increased.

The planning commission is examining recreation use as part of its responsibility for the town’s capital program. The commission drafts the plan, which is then sent to the selectboard for adoption.

In addition, the town has been reviewing its impact fee program, which is based upon the capital program.

Currently included in the capital program is $500,000 to repair the seawall at the Bay Park, something parks director Glen Pion said he believes will be paid out of the operating budget. The town is currently investigating repair options.

The capital program also allocates $190,000 for improvements to Cohen Park, including a breakwater, ball field, picnic pavilion and new playground equipment.

However, 32 percent of survey respondents said they believed Cohen Park, located on the Maquam Shore, should remain as it is and another 26 percent don’t know where the park is.

Less than a fourth supported adding a picnic shelter; 15 percent supported new playground equipment, 12 percent a breakwater and kayak launch, and only nine percent were in favor of a ballpark.

The existing playground equipment at Cohen Park will be removed this year, according to Pion. The town’s insurance company has recommended its removal because of its poor condition.

Also in the capital program is $137,000 for renovations to the Bay Park bathhouse. The renovations are currently scheduled for 2010, pending voter approval. However, only 11 percent of respondents supported winterizing the bathhouse, and 46 percent felt Bay Park should be left as it is.

The capital program includes a provision for a $1,000,000 20-year bond to elevate the dock. Twenty-one percent of respondents said elevating the dock is a project they would be willing to spend tax monies on.

One-third of respondents would like to see cross-country and walking trails in the town forest, but another 40 percent don’t know where the forest is.

Discussion of the forest, located on French Hill, provoked an exchange between Teague and Pion in which Teague sought to determine if there was a written forest management plan for the forest.

Pion said that the town consults with forester Sam Hudson, who Pion acknowledged is not under contract. “I call him when I need him and he charges me,” Pion said.

“The bottom line is we don’t have a written forest management plan,” Teague said.

Planning commission chair David Schofield pointed out that normally another organization, such as the parks and recreation committee, would bring a plan to the planning commission, which would then review it. The only member of the town recreation committee recently resigned, however. “At this point we don’t have any organization working on recreation,” Schofield said.

The commission agreed to schedule time at a future meeting to discuss the capital program for recreation in light of the survey results.

“You’ve got a mandate to provide more walking trails,” Larner said.

Currently, the capital program does not contain any provisions for walking, hiking or biking paths.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Member Spotlight: Ron Manganiello

Vermont Federal Credit Union (VTFCU)
July 2008

Ron Manganiello is a long-time member of Vermont Federal Credit Union. He supports the philosophies of many of Vermont’s cooperative organizations, and in addition, has created his own organization that gives back to the community.

Ron started Bike Recycle Vermont (BRV) in his backyard in 2004. Retired from Burlington Electric, he was looking for something to fill his time as well as his passions for alternative transportation, recycling and community service. Bike Recycle has since grown out of his backyard. In early 2008 it moved into a donated space, courtesy of the Good News Garage in Burlington, and thus far has given away over 1800 bikes to income-qualified community members while also providing extensive education and training to youth and volunteers.

BRV gets donations of bikes from area businesses that run bike drives for them as well as individuals, from unclaimed bikes from the police, and area academic institutions. It is a completely self-funding organization that relies on the charity of the community in the form of both donations and volunteers. Operating on a shoestring budget while keeping hundreds of bikes in good repair requires help. Student groups regularly come in to work on bikes, learning how to repair them, but Manganiello explains that “we really consider this more of an education…teaching students the hard skills on how to repair the bikes, but also about the importance of recycling and healthy transportation modes.” Ron also hosts periodic events to raise money for the organization and participates in the annual Vermont Cares Ride with a Bike Recycle team to generate enthusiasm and publicity for the organization’s mission.

Bike Recycle is part of a larger parent organization called Local Motion, whose mission is to promote bicycling, walking, running, inline skating and the facilities that make such travel safe, easy and fun. The organization seeks to improve personal health and the local economy by developing regional trails, promoting walkable communities, and fostering active lifestyles. Originally founded in 1999 to develop the Winooski River Bike Ferry and Cycle the City, the organization broadened its sights on making the Greater Burlington area a better place to walk, bike, run and skate and reconnecting the segments of the former Island Line railbed into a spectacular regional trail. Five years later, they have come to support several organizations like BRV. “Our parent company is incredible”, sites Manganiello, “and provides a significant amount of support for our organization.”

Vermont Federal Credit Union commends Ron and others like him who give back to the communities in which we all live. For information about how you can support Bike Recycle Vermont, visit:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crossing Guard Thank You

North Avenue News / Burlington's Community Newspaper
July 4, 2008
By Cliff Cooper

Dolores Lapointe has been a crossing guard in Burlington for 21 years with the last 6 years out in the New North End at the Shore Road crossing of North Avenue. Her husband Francis has also served as a crossing guard for 20 years. He is stationed over by CP Smith School. We have heard that this past school year may be their last as they may soon retire? We wanted to take this space and say "thank you" to all the Crossing Guards in the City for their help in getting all the children to and from schools safely!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rock 'n Roll at Millstone Trails

Burlington Free Press
July 4, 2008
By Lauren Ober
Photo Glenn Russell

WEBSTERVILLE — On its face, mountain biking in a quarry seems patently ill-advised.

First, there are apt to be jagged granite blocks everywhere, remnants of an industry that celebrated its heyday nearly a century ago. Then there are the quarry pits themselves, which could easily swallow up any cyclist who happens to mispedal. The combination seems like an imminent disaster, and yet at Millstone Trails in the heart of Barre granite territory, it is the quarries themselves that make the mountain biking stand out.

Four years ago, Pierre Couture began the long process of cutting trails for nonmotorized use on his 350-acre property that abuts the Rock of Ages quarry. Couture, who grew up on the property, remembers hours spent in his youth exploring the abandoned quarries and wanted to allow the public to experience that. Thus Millstone Hill Touring Center was born, and hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers have access to some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the region.

The height of the Barre granite industry’s production came about 100 years ago when nearly 75 independent quarries operated right around Millstone Hill. Most of the hill was cleared and quarried, and Barre became the granite capital of the world.

But the march of progress brought with it the consolidation of Barre’s many quarries, leaving most small quarries abandoned in its wake. The exodus left behind a stark, pock-marked landscape. The pits filled with water, and the area turned into an industrial wasteland.

But slowly over time, the land began to rejuvenate itself. What was once a bleak moonscape became a thriving forest environment.

“It makes you think about how dynamic nature is,” Couture said.

When Couture moved back to his family’s land to start a bed-and-breakfast, he wanted to open up as much of the property as he could to the public. Couture, a history buff who has a near encyclopedic knowledge of the Barre granite industry, thought recreation trails would be the best way to expose people to the physical history of the area.

The past three years have seen steady growth in the number of mountain bike trails available to ride. Couture guesses the Millstone Trail Association maintains about 70 miles of trails that range from family-friendly cruisers to rugged switchbacks with gnarly rock drops. This season saw the opening of about 15 miles of new singletrack designed by some of the state’s top trail builders.

For mountain bikers visiting Vermont for the first time, or for grizzled locals who think they’ve ridden it all, the Millstone Hill trails are not to be missed; $8 will get riders a day pass, some intense riding and a serious dose of local history.

All rides begin on Lower Mainline, an easy doubletrack that inches up a slow incline before hitting the main trail network. From there, riders have numerous easy options. But to best see the 20 quarries, you’re probably going to have to hit a more challenging trail like Locomotion, which takes bikers right past the Jones Brothers and Barclay quarries.

Along the way, riders pass an old boiler at the beginning of the Boilermaker loop. While much of the leftover metal from the railroads and quarries was pilfered for scrap during World War II, the boiler remains as a symbol of the once booming industry.

The newest trails, some of which were designed by Hans Jenny of the Chittenden County mountain bike group Fellowship of the Wheel, are on the south side of Graniteville Road and can be found by following the Grand Canyon trail. Even before you get to the newly cut advanced trails, it is imperative to stop at the Rock of Ages lookout, overlooking one of the largest granite pits in the world.

For years, Rock of Ages, the largest quarrier of granite in North America, has allowed public access to their 1,800-acre property. Couture said the quarry owners didn’t object to trail development on their land and that the Millstone Trail Association has been “ambitious” in its trail work.

At the lookout, riders get a breathtaking view of the quarry pit stories below them. Old guide wires and huge iron hooks are all that are left of the quarry operations. From the top of the pit, riders can see over to one of the two working quarries left in Barre.

Continuing along the Grand Canyon trail, which rings the rim of the quarry, riders can easily access the Fellowship Ring, a directional advanced singletrack trail that folds back on itself numerous times. Along the trail, riders will find giant roots, slick rock gardens and narrow switchbacks.

It’s not a beginner trail by any means, but the persistent rider will be rewarded by a spectacular view of a working quarry. At Quarry View Lookout, guide wires attached to boom derricks that seem to stretch to the heavens extend all the way back into the trees behind the lookout. It’s not your standard mountain biking scenery.

Like Kingdom Trails in East Burke, it is easy to spend an entire day or more exploring the trails at Millstone Hill. That is partly by design. Couture said Tim Tierney, executive director of the Kingdom Trails, has been a mentor to him with regard to building a mountain bike destination. Tierney returns the compliment, saying he’s supportive of their efforts and thinks the trails are coming along well.

Ideally, both mountain bike areas will help Vermont become a destination for out-of-state cyclists, Couture said. As long as the trails at Millstone Hill continue to be sustainably developed and refined, Tierney thinks that time isn’t far off.

“They’re working towards developing quality trails, and as long as they keep that in mind, they’ll succeed,” Tierney said.

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or