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Stupid Flooding Puts Kibosh on Bike Ferry 

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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:

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Photos via Local Motion. 


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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.

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