Burlington Segways tours roll over city

When you meet Rick Sharp, the owner of Burlington Segways, the word ÒdisabledÓ does not immediately come to mind.

But a bad leg injury that stemmed from a paragliding accident sparked an entrepreneurial spirit in Sharp.

After his accident, he was no longer able to do the same things he loved Ð like riding a bike, for example.

With his wife RuthÕs support, the couple opened a Segway adventure center, Sharp Park, in Milton near their home. This 101 acre ecology preserve is home to a Christmas tree farm, maple sugar grove, and forest conservation land.

This is where the couple decided to bring Segways ten miles south of Milton, to Burlington.

Burlington Segways operations are officially underway. They offer one and two hour Segway tours of Burlington, mostly focusing on using the bike path.

Segways have opened up a new door for Rick, or perhaps reopened an old one. Since getting involved with Segway, Rick has been able to travel and see the world through Segway tours, despite his handicap.

During our interview, Sharp insisted I have the Segway experience, describing it as Òunique and fun.Ó

As he steps on his, and helps me step onto mine Ð his confidence and happiness is apparent in his smile as he speeds up and down the bike path.

This summer will be their first in business. With the right marketing and their newly hired interns from a Vermont job agency, Vermont BusinessÕs for Social Responsibility, they are hoping for success.

Sharp played an active role in the early 1980s to build the Waterfront Bike Path that runs along Lake Champlain. Currently, they have been issued a temporary Special Use Permit form the Parks and Recreation Department to use the bike path.

Sharp ultimately hopes to secure a more permanent position as the tours become more popular with Burlington tourism.

Katie Ettman, a junior, is among the three hired summer interns. Ettman landed the job with hopes that she will bring her tour guide experience from UVM down to the waterfront.

The Sharps also hope her connection to UVM admissions will bring them one step closer to their end goal: Segway tours on campus.

UVM students have differing opinions when it comes to this prospect.

ÒSegways are dope! And all the better that they could be available for people with disabilities,Ó UVM junior, Bennett Siegel, said.

Sophomore Jessie Shubrook disagrees. ÒI think Segway tours would be disruptive to the campus. We have a relatively small campus, Segways would be unnecessary,Ó she said.

ÒAlthough UVM isnÕt sold on the idea, we are hoping students, like Katie Ettman, can help spread the word,Ó Ruth said.

While visiting schools around the country for their daughter, Sharp found himself out of luck when it came to handicap options for the campus tours.