Panton leading lake Byway effort

PANTON — The town of Panton is leading an effort to extend the Lake Champlain Byway from Vergennes through Panton and Addison to the Lake Champlain Bridge and back to the Little City, and the other two communities have both signed on.
The Addison selectboard on Oct. 2 agreed to support the new Byway, and on Oct. 23 the Vergennes city council also came on board.
Those boards said yes after presentations by Panton Planning Commission chairman David Raphael, who told them the effort could encourage tourism and make the communities eligible for some grant funding.
“The Byway is meant to celebrate the resources of the communities it travels through,” Raphael told aldermen on the 23rd.
The new Byway requires approval by the Vermont Byway Council, which oversees a program that now — according to www.lakechamplainbyway.com — has 134 miles of Byways near the lake in northwestern Vermont.
Raphael this past Wednesday said that now that the proposed Byway has the support of town leaders, the Vermont Byway Council would hold a public hearing in the area to make sure there is community support, probably sometime in the next few months. Approval could come by January, he said.
Under consideration is a route that would run from Vergennes west on Panton Road, turn south on Jersey Street, head west on Pease Road, and then south toward Addison and Route 17 on Lake Street. It would then follow Route 17 to the Lake Champlain Bridge, and then double back on Route 17 all the way to Route 22A and return to Vergennes.
Raphael told the city council that when Panton approached the Byway Council, the town was told a new Byway should either extend the existing network, which runs north from Vergennes to the Champlain Islands, or be a “a continuous loop” such as the one being discussed.
The council then advised Panton to “go back and engage” with neighboring communities to find that loop, and Raphael successfully took the last step of that process last week in Vergennes.
The Agency of Transportation does have grant money for which Byway towns are eligible, and some have even successfully applied for funding for visitor centers, Raphael said.
But he told aldermen that Panton’s plans are more modest — encouraging tourism and possibly getting signs to ask bike riders and vehicle operators to share the roads politely (although the Byway program is not to be confused with the Lake Champlain Bikeway that already runs through Panton and Ferrisburgh, on a different route).
“We do not plan any to undertake and important or major initiative … with this designation,” Raphael told aldermen, but Panton officials rather would work on “managing the bike and vehicular traffic in a safer way.”
Vergennes Alderman Renny Perry, a former Vermont Byway Council member, said the Byways designation can help encourage tourism. Perry said many tourists use the Byways website as a resource because it lists local points of interest and recreational opportunities.
“It’s really a promotional tool,” Perry said.
The website www.lakechamplainbyway.com offers both English and French, and site visitors may click on links for History and Culture, Nature and Scenery, Outdoor Recreation, Region and Towns, Seasonal Events, and Map and Directions.
According to the website, the Lake Champlain Byway is a federally designated “Scenic Byway” that consists of Route 2 through the Champlain Islands and Route 7 through Burlington and “several surrounding towns,” and south to seven Addison County towns, including Middlebury.
Per the website, a “Byway is designated for its unique intrinsic qualities or resources. The Lake Champlain Byway is notable for its scenic, natural, recreational, historic and cultural resources. This website is a guide to the Lake Champlain Byway and the many scenic, historic, recreational and cultural experiences to be found along it.”
Raphael said the Byway designation requires no financial commitment from and imposes no regulatory burdens on towns, and he praised the program for highlighting communities like Panton. 
“It does recognize the fact that even towns like Panton that are small and agricultural have roles to play in the tourism industry in Vermont,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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