Vergennes to host historic schooner

VERGENNES — The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Lois McClure, a replica canal schooner, will visit Vergennes in October to celebrate the city’s pivotal role in the War of 1812.
Vergennes aldermen at their Aug. 21 meeting gave permission for the museum to use the city docks on Oct. 12, 13 and 14 to moor the schooner.
On the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 12, the LCMM schooner will head up Otter Creek to Vergennes, the last leg of its 40-stop tour “Commemorating the War, Celebrating the Peace,” through Canada, New York and Vermont.
There, delegations from New York, Canada and Vermont will greet the Lois McClure in the city where Commodore Thomas MacDonough built the fleet that defeated the British at the pivotal Battle of Plattsburgh Bay on Sept. 11, 1814.
“It’s immensely significant for Vergennes,” said LCMM co-director Erick Tichonuk, who also told aldermen last Tuesday that no less an authority than Sir Winston Churchill described the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay as “the most significant event of the entire dispute.”
The LCMM schooner has already stopped in St. Albans, Plattsburgh, Montreal and Ottawa and is now in western New York on its way back to Vermont via the Erie Canal.
But given MacDonough’s “stunning victory,” Tichonuk said, Vergennes tops the tour list.
“It’s the last stop. It’s probably the most significant stop on the route,” Tichonuk said.
Tichonuk was joined by Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, who helped obtain state funding for the schooner tour and said their visit to the council meeting had another purpose. A committee is being formed to help plan the Vergennes festivities, and Lanpher said city representation is being sought.
“We’re seeking someone who will be a voice for the city of Vergennes,” Lanpher said.
Alderman Bill Benton volunteered to serve, and the council approved him as its representative.
Mayor Michael Daniels suggested the Vergennes Union High School band could participate on Oct. 12. Tichonuk said it was possible a lecture could be included to discuss the results of the LCMM-managed archaeological dig that began in 2011 and tried to pinpoint MacDonough’s shipyard.
Tichonuk said an LCMM representative recently lectured on the results, and a report is now being prepared on the dig.
No “smoking gun” was found that allowed officials to declare with certainty where the shipyard was, he said, but artifacts were uncovered that “suggest a possible location.”
In other business on Aug. 21, aldermen:
•  Heard an upbeat report from Addison County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Robin Scheu. Scheu said the ACEDC membership has grown, that it has helped “a lot of businesses in Vergennes,” that many Vergennes-area residents sit on its board, that its roughly $1.16 million of revolving loan funds have provided valuable “gap financing” for a number of firms, that it has helped businesses obtain grants, and it has held successful conferences and smaller gatherings.
•  Heard from Addison County Solid Waste District board member Cheryl Brinkman about the long-range impact of the state’s new Solid Waste Bill (H. 485). Brinkman said the bill is intended to get the state past the 30 percent recycling threshold at which Vermont has been “stuck,” although she noted Addison County is the top recycling county in the state at more than 50 percent of recyclables diverted from the waste stream.
The bill creates new requirements for transfer stations, landfills, waste haulers, businesses and consumers on separating and handling recyclables, food waste and yard trash, with target dates that range from 2014 to 2020. City Manager Mel Hawley said officials will have to be mindful of how the law will affect the Vergennes recycling center.
•  Heard from planning commission chairman Shannon Haggett that planners are studying, as required by the town plan, whether the city should have a separate conservation commission, or if the planning commission should handle that role as well. Haggett said planners would have a recommendation “in the coming months.”
•  Reappointed Alderman Peter Garon, Alex McGuire and Carrie Barrows to the Development Review Board, and Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau to the DRB as an alternate. Aldermen also reappointed Haggett, McGuire and Stacy Raphael to the planning commission. Aldermen said they would also like to hear from residents interested in a vacancy on the planning commission.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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