$1 million donated to help bike paths

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A check of over $1 million was presented to Mayor Miro Weinberger by The Parks Foundation to improve the waterfront bike path.

The Parks Foundation works to inspire the spirit of stewardship and philanthropy for Burlington’s parks and recreational properties, according to their website.

Over 250 donors made contributions, according to an Oct. 25 report by the mayor’s office.

The Parks Foundation works with the city, but is a completely separate organization, said Jesse Bridges, parks and recreation director.

Bridges was the assistant athletic director at UVM until he was appointed parks director, according to an Oct. 2012 press release from Weinberger’s office.

Having a separate foundation allows donors to feel secure that what they’re giving to is what is actually being spent on,” he said. “[They know] that it’s not going to get sucked up into the general fund at any point.”

The Foundation uses the donated money as a supplement to more of the basic improvements of the bike path like repaving, which is the city’s responsibility, said John Bossange, chair of The Parks Foundation.

Things like “pause places,” signs, water fountains, overlooks, benches and bathrooms will be added to the bike path, which will be funded by the Foundation, he said.

“We’re not paving the bike path; we’re adding amenities to the bike path,” Bossange said. “The foundation’s job is to supplement and enhance the rehabilitation of the bike path. The city’s job is to rehabilitate it; ours is to enhance it.”

Renovations for the bike path has never been met with any opposition, Bossange said.

“I have never ever had someone say this is a waste,” he said. “I can’t imagine someone saying ‘don’t do this,’ I can’t imagine.”

In fact, the path has raised property values that surround the path, helped local businesses and increase tourism, he said.

The bike path has three major components that make it such an important part of the city: health and wellness, transportation and tourism, Bossange said.

“People come here to go on the bike path, so it’s a huge PR thing,” he said. “Because of all three things, [the bike path] pays for itself; because of that, [I have never] had pushback.”

Junior Katie Lukes, a member of UVM’s running club, said runners have been avoiding the bike path recently.

“I do not know too much about what the new waterfront path will look like,” Lukes said, “but because of the construction, the running club has just stayed away from that side all together.”

Members have been running more at other places in Burlington, like Oakledge Park, Lukes said.

Over three-fourths of Burlington voters elected the city continue renovations on the bike path, according to the city’s election summary report.

After approval on the ballot, renovations of the bike path will continue to move forward, with the first portion of improvements happening on the stretch from the Andy (A-dog) Skate Park to North Beach, Bossange said.