Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To Bike Or Not To Bike: That is Bennington's Question

Page 10 of Martin Cummings' Corkscrew study
showing all of the network possibilities

BENNINGTON -- In 2003, a year before the west leg of the Bennington Bypass opened and began to choke life out of the town's tourism trade, Martin Cummings prepared the Corkscrew Recreational Path Feasibility Study.

"The Town of Bennington and members of the Bennington area bicycling community have an interest in establishing a system of multiple use recreational trails. One option that has been frequently discussed is the establishment of a pathway, along the bed of the Corkscrew Division of the Rutland Railroad, between the Bennington Museum and the Bennington Arts Center. This study examines the feasibility of this proposal."

The next 23 pages of research and statistical evidence address concerns and solutions associated with the multi-use trail -- "an extensive network" linking historic, cultural, educational and recreation sites in the Bennington area along the Corkscrew rail bed.

The idea, impressive in scope, died a quick death because of issues in Old Bennington. A passage on page 18 might best explain why the bike path never took flight:

"The two property owners who spoke were more negative. One said that a pathway at the edge of her property would result in … 'looking at people from wherever that you really don’t want to look at.'"

And that's how a great idea gets buried fast in Old Bennington.

New ideas for bike paths sprung to life in the Corkscrew's wake: the Rail Trail, spurred by town support and public dollars, and the Ninja Trail, spurred by private money and a grassroots collective, are two of them.

Dan Monks, Bennington's planning director and assistant town manager, called Cummings' Corkscrew presentation 10 years ago "a great study, and it's a great pathway."

But, he said, there are many issues, first and foremost the right-of-way issue.

We'll explore right-of-way issues in the following days and weeks while talking to main players involved in the Rail and Ninja trails.

Until then, here is the Corkscrew Recreational Path Feasibility Study: