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June 20, 2011

Stupid Flooding Puts Kibosh on Bike Ferry

Causeway-Flooding-5-7-11-500x253 This just in from the flooding damage desk: No bike ferry this season. Boo. 

Apparently, the damage wrought by Mother Nature during the spring flooding was so severe that both the northern and southern sections of the causeway were largely wiped out. Bitch.

The erosion damage will not be repaired in time for the ferry to begin running, so cross that off your list of summer things you want to do. Also strike from your list sitting on the causeway stone piles and throwing trash at the Québecois McYachts as they motor through the cut. 

The bike ferry, which connects the Island Line Trail in Colchester with its sister trail in South Hero, has been running as a demonstration for the past nine years in some form or another thanks to the efforts of cycling advocacy organization, Local Motion and other partners such as VBT Bicycling & Walking Adventures. But not this year. And that's a huge shame. The volunteer-run service was one of the real joys of a northern Vermont summer. 

I took the bike ferry a couple of times last summer and still get giddy thinking about the novelty of hopping on a little pontoon boat with a bunch of other sweaty cyclists and getting ferried across the lake to continue my two-wheeled journey. Last year, while I was waiting for the ferry, a pair of Fresh Air Fund kids from Queens rode up. No parents or guardians — they're city kids, so they don't need their hands held. They had traveled the 12 miles to the end of the causeway (No helmets, no water. Uh, for real, where were their sponsors?) and were completely in awe of the boat. 

"Can we go on it?" one of them asked the volunteer collecting the ticket money. 

"Only if you leave your bikes here," the volunteer replied, smartly requiring the girls to ditch their bikes so they wouldn't cycle off into Canada. 

The kids were thrilled — they had never been on a boat before. So they rode the ferry back and for a few times, threw trash at some McYachts and, when they were bored, the volunteer gave them some bottles of water and sent them back to Burlington. Success! 

Sad that that scene will not play out this summer season. But all is not lost. The fact that Local Motion has to take a break from running the labor-intensive bike ferry means they'll have the time and energy to focus on comprehensive repairs to the rec path. Other sections of the paved trail were damaged during the flooding, including segments near the old barge canal in Burlington and to the north of Starr Farm where part of the trail slides down into the lake.

Despite these setbacks, the trail is still open; it's just in need of some good lovin'. And you can help! Here's how, from a recent Local Motion press release: 

To help trail managers fund the upcoming repairs to the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester-South Hero Causeway, stakeholders have launched a ‘Friends of the Island Line Trail’ committee and a related charitable fund. While FEMA funding for trail repairs looks likely, FEMA funding requires a 25 percent local match and host communities do not have this funding in their current budgets. As a result, residents and local businesses are stepping up to raise critical matching funds. So, many people have offered to host fundraising events for the repair fund, including:

June 23 – Save the Causeway Soiree, Snow Farm Winery, South Hero, 5-8:30 pm

July 1-3 – Earl’s Cyclery, Old Spokes Home, North Star Sports and Skirack will  donate 7 percent of sales to the trail’s repair.

July 4 – July 4th BBQ & Band, Blue Paddle Bistro, South Hero, noon-3 pm

July 15 – Full Moon Dance Party, Old Lantern, Charlotte, 6 pm to midnight

Sept 23-25 – EMS Nor’easter, Burlington Waterfront,

The general public can also donate by going to and clicking on “Friends of the Island Line Trail,”

Here are some more photos of the flood damage:

ColchesterCausewayMay1_B by Cathy Frank


SouthHero_May7_11 (31)

Photos via Local Motion. 


Is anyone talking about NOT repairing the causeway? It's a man made barrier to natural lake flow and for the 9 months a year that there isn't a bike ferry it is causing a lot more impact on fish and other lake biota than recreation. What if the fundraisers where to remove the causeway and restore natural flow of the lake???

After riding out the causeway to check out the damage, it isn't like the lake is just going to reclaim the whole thing... 95% or more of the causeway is in fine shape. Not saying it doesn't need repairs, the damage is quite bad in spots and it is totally unridable in those areas, but it isn't like restoring the natural flow of the lake is going to be possible without a massive amount of work/money. I'm sure the people who own homes on the lakefront to the east of the causeway would lose sections of their waterfront due to increased wave action / flooding in the future.

Repair costs will be relatively small compared to the cost to remove the causeway. It totally makes sense to repair it and bring back to life this great local recreational resource. The causeway has been there for over 100 years... one year of flood damage isn't going to return it to the depths of Lake Champlain.

Agree with Rebecca above. The derogatory environmental impacts are huge; by so profoundly limiting exchange through the causeway you essentially have two lakes. Fish struggle to migrate through to breed. Hydrology is severely altered. I find it ironic that the biking crowd, one that generally is in support of environmental issues, is being so selfish and single-minded on this.

YEah! Attach a pod to that causeway and occupy it. Down with big bike!

Wait a minute. Is there any proof that there is an adverse affect on the fish or other biota caused by the causeway?

Fish have an amazing ability to re-trace their exact migration patterns. They travel hundreds of miles and if they hit a wrong turn they turn around and travel back. As is, removing the causeway would likely do more harm, as several generations of fish would swim into the lake, notice something different and turn back around, never spawning.

I don't know JC. The specter of VPIRG or Conservation Law Foundation using Act 250 to put the causeway out of service permanently suddenly seems real and frightening. Setting those two famous organizations aside, we all know that in Vermont even a single crank with an axe to grind can sink huge projects. Do causeway repairs require an Act 250 process? If they do we can pretty much kiss the thing goodbye.
Perhaps Ms. Ober if you are reading this, could check on that with a few calls? Pretty please?

Agreeing with others - let the causeway erode away. Don't rebuild. Its bad for the Lake, and an apt solution would be to just make the Ferry a longer ride.


PS Can 7 Days please do without the swearing? Its so cool and fun to put those bad words in print, but really, it just shows a lack of imagination.

PPS Can we also drop the smarmy attacks on McQuebecers? Ooh, let's throw trash at the tacky Francophones! Fun! Like, I'm such a cool hipster and 'real' Vermonter, and not at all a hypocrite! I hate big boats, and love being eco-friendly on my bike, but let's rebuild the causeway which is really bad for the Lake! Yeah! Its all about me!


I'm pretty sure 7Days could eliminate the swearing and the remarks regarding the frenchmen north of the border, but then again... meh, it's their publication.

In some ways I like the non-pc, don't offend anyone attitude. If you prefer, check out the BurlingtonFreePress website, censorship is alive and well over there. But be advised, I suspect your post would have been removed over there, critizing their "journalism" is a no no and subject to being banned.

Yes, I treasure the lively debates at the Burlington Free Press Forums:

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.

This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.


You bring up censorship - which is totally irrelevant to my observation. Yes, it is their publication, and yes, I'm asking them to change their STYLE (and not their substance). In my opinion, the swearing is lazy, and an attempt to be ultra cool, while connecting with the hipster college crowd. It adds little to the issues, and just makes me feel like 7 Days isn't terribly professional - despite all the other positives. Kurt Vonnegut said (in fiction in Hocus Pocus) - that one of his characters didn't swear b/c that character didn't want to give anyone an excuse not to hear what he had to say. I agree whole-heartedly.

As far as I can tell, a lot of the "This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff." are posts left by people that haven't registered or logged in there, or something. My wife asked me to look at a message she wrote once; on her computer, where she posted it, it's listed as something like BFPReaderOnline or some generic non-registered user ID. Every other computer sees the "blocked by our staff" thing. Lets folks who don't realize what's going on huff all they want and think their posts are being seen, when no one else gets to see it. Maybe you see if you're registered and logged in? I don't know, I generally avoid the comments there.

If there were any negative impacts caused by the causeway (nice, right?) we would have seen them already... it's been up for 100 years or so. As for a web search on this, all I could find was a lot of hand waving about the possibility of negative impact, and that every case is different. I could not find any actual data on this causeway.. seems like the jury is still out on the negative impacts in my ever so humble opinion.

J.Pierce, that's actually another feature of the BFP comments. They will ghost you. You can post all you want and when YOU view the page you see the posts, no one else does. What's cute about it is they don't bother to tell you. It's like a daycare over there, from the editor down to the webguy with a stick up his ass.

As for swearing CR, did you consider it isn't an attempt to be ultra cool or anything like that and maybe Lauren just likes to fucking swear all the goddamn time because she doesn't really give a shit, and it is simply a fucking part of her natural pisspoor dialect?

Some people just swear for no other reason then because its how they speak. Think truckers.

FWIW, I'm not deleting, banning, or "ghosting" anyone here, but just jumping in to say that I'd rather this thread not become a venting session about our newspaper brethren across town.

Also, we're probably going to continue to use the occasional curse word in our writing. It's not an attempt to be cool, it's just how we operate. Seriously, fuck flooding.


Man: Well, Well, I was told outside that...


Man: What?


M: Yes, but I came here for an argument!!

A: OH! Oh! I'm sorry! This is abuse!

M: Oh! Oh I see!

A: Aha! No, you want room 12A, next door.

M: Oh...Sorry...

A: Not at all!

Why throw trash at French Canadians? That's rude, xenophobic, and it's littering into the lake! Why would someone do that? What if the article joked about throwing trash at another ethnic group--would that be funny too? I've never seen anyone throw trash at boats at the cut (and I've been through many times)--why promote it in an article? I for one have always appreciated the cultural diversity we are lucky to have as a result of Canadians/Quebecois visiting us. Not to mention the benefit they bring to our economy.

I agree that the swearing detracts from the article.

Who is promoting throwing trash at Canadians. Jeez, it is a really sad commentary in the state of our society when every line, every quip, every sarcastic comment has to be explained in detail because someone will take it seriously. No wonder we as a Americans are so freaking uptight about everything.

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