Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Causeway's Big Fix

Chapin, at right, announces funding dollars.

I attended an event in Airport Park, which also happens to be the start of the 4-mile Causeway Trail. 2011 was a difficult time to live close to the shoreline. Lake Champlain received record high water, destroying the Causeway's surface and left collapsed portions of Burlington's waterfront path. But as we soon discovered there is an outpouring of federal, state, and private funding, attaining an amazing 80% of the required reconstruction total.

Many show up for the big announcement. Former governor
Howard Dean hands over a 5,000 dollar check.
When the flood waters receded and the marble base that underlies the Causeway remained intact, Local Motion wanted to rebuild. I was initially skeptical. How could Vermont attain FEMA money when there were so many without homes in the Mississippi basin? Somehow, Local Motion pieced together a good portion of the overall goal, so Burlington's bike path will be repaired, the causeway resurfaced, new and improved docks across The Cut (opening) with a larger boat to ferry 15 passengers. It's a spectacular coup. But I should know by now that with Chapin Spencer at the helm it's impossible to admit defeat. For 20 years, his inspiration and unflagging energy is the drive-train behind this wonderful organization.

Current 6-passenger bike ferry. This ran on weekends across The Cut through 2010.

The Causeway spans two cities and two counties.

An internal fundraising group unveiled a new logo, The Big Fix, to a round of applause. It's an appropriate name with great graphics that spell exactly what needs to be done. As we've seen before, resurfacing of this ex-railroad line requires trucks to drive the narrow right-of-way as much as 3 miles, perform their duties, only to shift into reverse for painstaking backwards travel; there is no turnaround. Fortunately, for the town of Colchester where most of the causeway resides, federal and state money covers their cost. But for the remaining docks and improved boat, we will need to raise nearly 300,000. more dollars.

A couple days after the announcement my family and I enjoyed another rousing fireworks display. As is our custom, we ride to the event before dark then with glow sticks and lights return the 4 miles in the dark, ringing bells and laughing with many others navigating the route home. It's a positive and polite experience, especially with our troup of 8. All this is possible because of Burlington's waterfront path.

In an effort to show my support for The Big Fix campaign, on July 4th I volunteered with others to participate in the Colchester Parade.

We decorated our bikes and the Bike Ferry.

No one had experience with the helium tank, but eventually someone figured it out.

We were given shirts.

At show time tired children were ushered into seats.

Another hopped on the tag-a-long. Coincidentally, she rode for the first time without training wheels that very morning.

The ambitious grandfather led his own parade.

The rest of us got into position behind the ferry. For variety, there was a recumbent...

...and an elliptical bike.

I daresay it was the hottest day of the summer, especially on the asphalt. A resident held a hose at the ready and we begged her to spray us.

Our job as attendants was to canvas the crowd. I went from side to side, handing out stickers and brochures. I said something like, "who wants information on the Causeway?" I found most people receptive to the handout—that's when I realized the value of attending the parade. One man opened his wallett and gave me a twenty dollar bill, which I passed to Island Line coordinator Brian Costello, standing atop the bike ferry.

Afterward, I decided to take different roads back home. I reflected on the amazing experience. I am confident that the remainder of the money will be raised by the end of the year.


  1. Great news about the causeway funding. Nice to hear an upbeat post about bike routes. The thing I've always loved about fireworks is the smell. I always try and wheedle a position close to where they are set off rather than where the best view is.

  2. Glad to hear your causeway is getting fixed. Being landlocked and not really familiar with this stuff I find it interesting/intriguing. So there's a ferry that shuttles bikes across the gap which is left for boats?
    While the railroad was operational was there a turn or lift bridge of some kind?

    1. There was a turnstile type of bridge. Because of large sailboats and other watercraft using The Cut, a ferry service is the only viable solution to continue across.

      To see how riding it looks and for an aerial view, check this out:


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