Opinion: ‘Rail Trail’ could benefit bikers and the whole community

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? What if that lemonade was really, really good? Then it would actually be a real boon that life gave you the lemons in the first place.
I have long thought that Middlebury would really benefit from two things that, while being luxuries, would substantially add to the quality of life in the area. One is a way to stroll along the river. River walks are popular attractions in towns that have them, whether they be in natural, park-like settings or in more commercial and retail-oriented forms.
Another is a bike path. It has always seemed to me that Middlebury would really enhance itself as a biking community (a goal I know many also have for Addison County as a whole) by having one. Anyone who has ridden on the wonderful bike path in Stowe, for example, doubtlessly thought as he or she rode along: “I wish my town had one of these.”
The alternate railroad route that seems in the early stages of proposition (leaving the current track south of Middlebury, going east to Omya, then travelling around the eastern flanks of Chipman Hill to rejoin the current track north of town) would allow Middlebury to rip up the current tracks through town and establish the railroad bed as a “rail trail” for walking and cycling. It would allow enjoyment of the river, it would connect with the Trail Around Middlebury in multiple places, and it would greatly enhance an already wonderful place to live.
In the end, this rail and bridges project might be a unique opportunity to bring passenger rail to Middlebury, enhance travel up the western side of the state, improve Middlebury’s economy, remove the train and potentially hazardous cargo from the middle of town, create a safe biking option for recreation and commuting, and add a wonderful new feature to central Addison County. I seriously hope all involved will take this “rail trail” suggestion to heart, and add another layer of vision to this whole process.
Bjarki Sears, Cornwall

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