20191109_bta_rec path opens

Cyclists ride on a new section of the recreation path in Montpelier that opened Friday along the Winooski River east of Pioneer Street.

MONTPELIER — A new 1.9-mile section of the shared-use path in the Capital City was dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

About 100 people turned out for the ceremony and ribbon-cutting.

The $6 million project will connect to a Cross Vermont Trail project — another four miles of recreation trail through East Montpelier. It is hoped to break ground in the spring.

Montpelier now has four miles of shared-use path: From the east side of the city at Dog River Road, passing through the newly opened Taylor Street Transit Center and across a new bridge over the North Branch river to Main Street. A short section of path, from Main Street and along Barre Street to the recreation center will need to be completed in the spring and will require eliminating 18 city parking spaces. From the recreation center, path users can connect with the shared-use path on Stone Cutters Way to the new section from Granite Street and along Barre Street, Old Country Road and along the Winooski River to Gallison Hill Road, where it will connect with the proposed Cross Vermont Trail.

Ceremonies to celebrate the new path were held at the new Caledonia Spirits on Barre Street – a merciful reprieve from the cold weather for the scores of guests who attended the event.

During the chance to walk, ride or ski the path before the ribbon-cutting on Friday, Erika Mitchell and Seth Frisbie, of Calais, of the self-styled Frizzle Mountain Unicycle Club, rode unicycles along the new stretch.

“We’re having a grand time,” said Mitchell. “This is a wonderful idea, and it’s going to open up so much opportunity for this end of town. With the distillery here and Hunger Mountain Coop, it’s going to be an anchor for a whole new part of town.”

Frisbie added: “It’s a wonderful resource and one of the things that makes Montpelier and central Vermont a nice place to live.”

Mayor Anne Watson helped guests to pronounce the Abenaki name of the path.

It will be called “Siboinebi Path” after a city contest to select a suitable name that was won this year by Jamie Carroll, assistant to the city manager. Siboinebi means “river water” and was chosen to reflect the original occupation of the city by the Abenaki Indians, and after consultation with the Abenaki Tribal Council by the Complete Streets Committee.

Watson noted the Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation could not be present but read a statement from him in which he noted that it was “refreshing” that Vermonters wanted to celebrate the Abenaki culture and use the tribe’s language to identify places.

Several members of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe who attended the event included Michael Descotaux, of Concord, Roland Bluto, of Milton, and brothers David Manning and Sgt. Dale Manning, who works for the Capitol Police Department.

Watson noted that the new section of path had been “many years in the making” and thanked voters who helped fund it, as well as city staff who worked on the project. She also acknowledged adjoining landowners who participated in the project.

“This path represents for us an alternative to using fossil-fuel vehicles as we get to work ... it represents better access for the business on the east side of town; it celebrates the river as it is so scenic and goes right along the river,” Watson said. “It’s an opportunity for families to recreate; and it really puts Montpelier on the map as a destination for recreation.”

Jen Roberts, of Onion River Outdoors on Langdon Street, said the path was significant because it connected the city with its Abenaki history, allowed for the use of alternative transportation, created a “safer and prettier passage” between schools, and connected other city landmarks, neighborhoods and other communities.

“Our lovely new path checks the box for so many of the reasons people value their community,” Roberts said. “This path belongs to all of us. Let’s use it to our advantage and keep growing this network of multi-use paths.”

Kim McKee, chairwoman of the Cross Vermont Trail Board, noted that the Cross Vermont Trail is a 90-mile corridor spanning the Wells and Winooski river valleys that is a patchwork of on-and-off-trail segments.

McKee said with the completion of the Montpelier shared-use path, the Winooski Bridge project would be a four-mile section that extended upstream from Gallison Hill Road, and include building a 200-foot steel bridge across the Winooski River and connect to the U-32 trail network.

She said there had been steady progress in doing so over the past five years. Rights of way had been obtained from five landowners; permits had been obtained; and a draft Act 250 application for the project had been prepared. Some costs for the project had increased because of new steel tariffs, she added.

McKee ended by singing a song she wrote to commemorate the project, titled “Winooski Bridge Song” before participants and guests went outside for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

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