Editorial: Is this the image Vermont wants to portray?
Vermont touts two scenic drives in the state: the dramatic Smugglers’ Notch that goes between Stowe and Jeffersonville featuring a steep, single-lane pitch through large rocky slabs and boulders near the top, and the bucolic Robert Frost Memorial Drive that features a 16-mile section of Route 125 over the Middlebury Gap from East Middlebury to Hancock.
The Robert Frost Memorial Drive is known for the beauty of the Middlebury River gorge leading up to Ripton, for its open vistas of the Greens above Ripton, the Robert Frost Interpretative Trail, the stunning green setting of the open fields around Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus, the views from Middlebury Gap and the winding steep on the other side to the Texas Falls area. Bordered by the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area to the south and more of the Bread Loaf Wilderness to the north, this scenic highway passes through a remote area of the state that offers ample recreational opportunities in all seasons, as well as a prime drive for visitors touring the state.
It is troubling, then, that the Vermont Department of Transportation allows an entry or terminus point of one of the state’s two designated scenic roadways to appear so unsightly. Specifically, we are referring to the long stretch of asphalt median at the junction of Routes 125 and 7, a few miles south of Middlebury’s downtown.
There, for what are two interrupted stretches of 50 or so yards of asphalt separating north- and south-bound lanes, are massive weeds that have been growing all summer. Some of the weeds are waist-high and growing ever taller.
It is a nothing short of a mess; a blight on the town and the state as tens of thousands of cars pass by weekly. As such it reflects poorly on Vermont’s brand as a quaint and charming state to visit and tour.
It is difficult to pass by this spot without remarking on the decrepit appearance and without wondering who could be in charge of maintaining this strip of highway, go past it each day, and never think to spruce it up.
Word is we are not the first to complain. When we talked to the town’s road maintenance team, they rightly noted it was the state department of transportation’s responsibility and a source of constant irritation among local residents. When we called to ask the Middlebury office of VTrans what the problems could be, we got an answering machine telling us to leave a message.
So, here’s a message from townspeople, all of us who drive (or ride our bikes) past this intersection frequently, and those at the state level whose job it is to market Vermont as a tourist destination based, in part, on the scenic beauty and charm as seen by those who tour the state’s relatively uncluttered roadways:
Please spruce up this median as soon as possible. We understand you have other priorities, but this is a two-hour job and certainly it can and should be worked into the schedule before the summer tourist season is on the wane. Furthermore, please keep it on your radar: as the start or terminus of one of the state’s two scenic roads, its appearance sends an important image of the state to millions of visitors year in and year out.
Surely, the message we don’t want to send is that Vermont is messy, un-kept and its road crews unresponsive.
— Angelo S. Lynn
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