People ask me why I got involved in the creation of the Burlington Bicycle Path and ultimately the Waterfront Park. The short explanation is that I felt I owed a debt to society for the free education I had received at the University of Southern California and Georgetown Law School. My mom died when I was an infant. My dad when I was 14. I was raised through high school by my stepmother on social security benefits. I could not have gone to college without generous scholarships. The longer story follows.
I came of age in the 1960s in Bellows Falls, Vermont, a town built around struggling and outdated paper companies that often dumped untreated colored vats of effluent directly into the Connecticut River, turning it red or orange or blue for hundreds of yards downstream. I instinctively knew these practices were wrong and became an environmentalist at an early age.
I excelled in Environmental Law at Georgetown, and worked for a year at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington D.C. in 1977 drafting hazardous waste regulations. When I returned to Vermont after law school in 1978, I got a clerkship with the Vermont Environmental Conservation Agency and stayed on to close down outdated landfills throughout the State.
So I was a pretty committed environmentalist by the time I got to Burlington in 1978. My hero of the environmental movement was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who wrote many of the leading environmental decisions of the 1960s including my favorite: his dissenting opinion in Sierra Club. v. Morton, where he argues trees should have standing (the right) to bring a legal action to enforce environmental laws.
In the 1950s Congress funded a plan to drain the old C&O Canal in Washington, D.C. and pave it over as a freeway. The Editors of the Washington Post wrote an editorial supporting the freeway. Justice Douglas challenged the Editors to walk the 22 miles of the Canal and witness for themselves the peaceful natural and historic setting of the Canal in the heart of an urban environment. They changed their editorial and today the C&O Canal is a working canal with a 22 mile bike path beside it and a National Historic Site.
So when future Governor, Howard Dean, called me in 1980 with a plan by UVM Environmental Studies Professor, Tom Hudspeth, to convert the old rail bed in the new north end to a bike path, I jumped at the chance to repay my debt to society for a first rate free education. The rest of the story is set out on the About Us page.
I was the seedling of Justice William O. Douglas and I am very happy to say that we were wildly successful in the creation of the Burlington Bike Path and preservation of the filled land in Burlington harbor for public uses. Hopefully my story will inspire others to become environmental seedlings in their own communities wherever that may be.
Burlington Segways is a continuation of my interest in environmental leadership. I see Segway PTs as a very efficient, zero emissions means of personal transportation particularly well suited to short distances in urban locations. Although self-propelled vehicles should be preferred for the physically fit, Segway PTs are a particularly good solution to mobility problems experienced routinely by the older generation with physical impairments like knee and hip replacements, etc. Segway PTs and other electrically assisted devices could reduce car traffic downtown and all the pollution and congestion that comes with cars.
Segway PT tours are a good way to introduce the public to these new machines in a safe and controlled environment. While you are learning to ride the Segway PT we like to entertain you with an historical narrative delivered at the sites that we are talking about by some of the people that were involved in shaping the waterfront you see today.