Written by Elisabeth Nance – Swanton Town Economic Development Coordinator

“I love to walk. Walking is a spiritual journey and a reflection of living,” wrote Edie Littlefield Sundby in I Was Given Three Months to Live.  For many of us walking is a time for self-reflection or for recreation. For many others, though, it is a time of frustration or exclusion. For those among us with mobility issues, too many communities have made walking difficult meaning aging Vermonters and those with disabilities cannot travel to places most people take for granted. With an aging population this is something Vermont is addressing with support from agencies like AARP. In Swanton, the newly-formed Healthy Community Task Force (HCTF) is hoping to address the concerns of residents and visitors by improving local walkability.

Walkability and bikeability were two issues that came up in 2015 at the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Community Visit. Since that time, Swanton has successfully applied for funding to construct a sidewalk from King Street to Brown Avenue, to design and construct a sidewalk from McDonald’s to MVU, to do a feasibility to improve traffic flow and pedestrian/bicyclist safety in the downtown, and to do a feasibility study to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety along Lake Street and Maquam Shore Road.

While these projects will consider safety and accessibility for all users in specific areas of Swanton, the task force wants to work with local officials and residents to look at existing infrastructure to identify gaps and where maintenance needs to be prioritized. To that end, in the coming weeks members of the task force will be starting to conduct a sidewalk audit as the first step in a project prioritization plan. The goal is to be proactive instead of reactive in identifying areas of concern. This will be done in both the village and the town with information being provided to the Public Works Department and the Highway Department.

The task force knows that it cannot do this alone and we actually don’t want to.  People know their neighborhoods best and having a wide range of ages, experiences, and abilities will give us the best chance to get this right. So, if you are interested in working with the Healthy Community Task Force to improve walkability in Swanton please email Elisabeth Nance at swedc@swantonvermont.org.

Task Force Members –

  • Betsy Fournier – RISEVT FGI Wellness Specialist & CO-Chair of Swanton Enhancement Project
  • Lise MacDonald – Community Advocate
  • Christine Sweeny – Community Advocate
  • Heather Buczkowski – Community Advocate & Swanton Select-Board Member
  • Elisabeth Nance – Swanton Town Economic Development Coordinator