Editorial: A note to Charlotte residents
We won’t claim a preference in the current redistricting debate that has proposed moving Charlotte into the Addison County senatorial district, but in case math prevails we’d like to introduce you to aspects of the county that may be closer to your values than you may know.
Our rural roots are the most obvious similarities. Dairy farming, open land, small town government and small rural schools are the heart of both areas.
Charlotte also borders parts of beautiful Lake Champlain, with spectacular views from many aspects of the town — very similar to parts of North Ferrisburgh, Ferrisburgh, Addison, Bridport, Shoreham and Orwell, to name the Addison County towns bordering the lake to the south of Charlotte. The issues of open land, lake access, state parks, private marinas and commercial property within the lake’s viewshed are all common concerns, as is the lake’s fishery, water clarity and cleanliness, and boating usage and safety.
Politically, the town of Charlotte and Addison County as a whole vote similarly: leaning Democratic as a party preference, and moderate to liberal on most issues. Addison County has two Democratic senators, and the vast majority of state representations in the county are Democrats.
In terms of cultural life, our hunch is that many Charlotte residents would enjoy exploring the rich opportunities they would find in Vergennes, Middlebury, Bristol and all points between or further south. And we suspect they already are familiar with many others. Surely most have visited Kingsland Bay State Park and the wonderful Folk Life Festival held there each summer; or enjoyed a dinner or wedding, luncheon or golf date at the Basin Harbor Club just 15 miles to the south, or perhaps visited the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum next door.
We suspect other Charlotte residents have dined at the Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes, or Starry Night Café in Ferrisburgh, the Bobcat Café or Mary’s at Baldwin Creek in Bristol, or enjoyed the French fare at Tourterelle Restaurant on Route 7 in New Haven — all about 20 minutes from the heart of Charlotte (which, in many instances, is about how long it takes to go from Shelburne through South Burlington.) Another five minutes brings you to the dozen or so restaurants in Middlebury. All in all, there are a good 20 restaurants within 30 minutes south of Charlotte, and while none would feature the chain varieties that South Burlington offers (the fast food burger joints, Denny’s, and the all-you-can-eat Italian place) the variety south of the Charlotte border is wide, very local and often top-notch. American Flatbread in Middlebury seems to be a popular destination on Friday nights for at least a few regular Charlotte residents we know.
The arts might also offer a pleasant surprise to Charlotte residents accustomed to heading north for entertainment.
Middlebury and Vergennes are justifiably proud of their revitalized community theaters. With frequent performances attracting everything from community theater to silent film movie nights to professional troupes, the offerings are numerous, modestly priced and excellent. Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater, in particular, sports more than 150 performances or events per year, and is the home of the Middlebury Opera Company that has produced outstanding summer productions for the past half dozen years, as well as frequent operas shown on the theater’s big screen live from the Met. Middlebury College also hosts a number of theater, dance and music events throughout the year, as well as a first-rate art museum and numerous lectures of social, political and international interest.
As a sports and recreational center, the county has an abundance of natural assets, including more than 40-miles of coastline along Lake Champlain; two Nordic ski areas at the Rikert Touring Center on Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus and the beautiful Blueberry Hill Touring Center in Goshen, plus alpine skiing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. The Green Mountains encompass the Bread Loaf Wilderness Area and the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, the only such designation in the state, which features terrific hiking, mountain biking, fishing and camping. At its base is Lake Dunmore and Branbury State Park, one of the most scenic smaller lakes on which to recreate. There’s rock climbing on nearby cliffs, canoeing, kayaking and water skiing down below. The Middlebury, Brandon, and Lincoln Gaps (the take-off point for the hike up Mount Abraham), offer some of the most challenging road biking anywhere in the state, and also some of the most pleasant. And area rivers, the New Haven, Middlebury and Otter Creek, offer terrific opportunities for white water kayaking and canoeing.
If team sports are more your thing, the Middlebury College hockey team draws a passionate local crowd for its high level of play, as does the college’s top-ranked basketball team, not to mention lacrosse, soccer, baseball and football.
That doesn’t mean that Charlotte residents would suddenly head south on every occasion if the town happened to share a senatorial district with Addison County. We understand and are sensitive to Charlotte’s closer proximity to the greater Burlington marketplace. We understand that most residents work in Chittenden County and think of that area as their natural place to do everyday business; to buy groceries on the way home; to watch school sports; to visit friends in neighboring towns. We understand the reluctance to change.
But we are suggesting sharing a senatorial district might not be as foreign as some think; that we might have more commonalities than differences; that, in fact, we might have more in common with Charlotte residents than say they have in common with Essex, Milton, Burlington or Williston. And just maybe, Charlotte residents would find a lot to like south of the border if given a reason to explore.
Angelo S. Lynn
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