COLCHESTER, Vt. -
The bikepath and pedestrian walkway - which links Burlington to the Lake Champlain islands - brings in millions of dollars-worth of spending into the area every year. However, the Colchester Causeway - a key portion in the middle - is still in need of repair following last year's spring flooding in Northwest Vermont.
Construction is due to begin Monday. The project is expected to cost just less than half a million dollars but Colchester taxpayers won't pay a dime.
Jerry Plewa and his wife Carmela are on their annual trip to Burlington, drawn by Lake Champlain and the scenic bike path that lines it.
Dangerous algae blooms prevented them from taking a dip in the water and the couple cut their bike ride short Wednesday afternoon when they ran into a closure along the Colchester Causeway. "Usually we go biking first, then we go for a swim," said Jerry, "so the first disappointment was the water, and now it's this."
About 2.5 miles of the 3.5 mile-long path is in disrepair after being pummeled by storms last spring. "It's a resource that's invaluable to our area," said Colchester Parks Dir. Glen Cuttitta, "we've had washouts as deep as three feet."
Reconstruction is due to begin this coming Monday and wrap up by the first week of November. Users have navigated around rough spots but Cuttitta says that can't continue. "There can't be any access to this area while the construction is going on," he said.
The path is only about 12' wide and narrows considerably where the storm did the most damage. That poses challenges for construction vehicles and elongates the repair timeline.
Fixes should cost about $450,000. Federal funds will cover three quarters of the repair cost; state dollars will account for 15 percent.
An anonymous donor picked up 2.5 percent of the bill, and Local Motion - a Burlington-based non-profit - has agreed to take on the final 7.5 percent.
"It's really a unique and tricky project that the public should stay clear of if we want to meet our deadline," said Brian Costello of Local Motion.
He said the group had already been fundraising to expand bike ferry service along the route when the storms hit last year. The effort now also covers the causeway cost.
Visitors say they plan on staying updated on the progress of repairs. "This is our favorite," said Jerry Plewa of the path, "in Montreal we have our spots, but this is our favorite spot in Burlington, we always like to come out here.
In the meantime, the other spots will have to do, at least until next year.
To keep the public updated on progress while the area is closed off, Colchester staff said they hope to offer updates through the media as well as post pictures on their site or Local Motion's.