Nearly 100 people gathered in Rutland early Saturday morning to celebrate the opening of a new multi use bike path in the city. It was the culmination of a 7 year-long community wide effort launched during the city’s Creative Economy Initiative.
Paul Gallo, the volunteer chair of the Rutland Creative Economy stood with Rutland Mayor Chris Louras and other trail organizers to officially open the first segment of what will eventually be a 2.2-mile long bike trail through the city.
Gallo smiled as he watched dozens of people walk past along the 10-foot wide paved pathway. The first segment is about 8 tenths of a mile long and winds through the city along East Creek.
"I know when we started construction in July that was really gratifying and satisfying," said Gallo. "But now we can really show the community what we’ve done. And I know there’s a lot of first time walkers here so I’m anxious to see what folks have to say about it. Hopefully," Gallo said, "this will give us a nice big nudge for those last two sections that we have to fund raise for."
He said the community raised over $300,000 which enabled them to leverage over a $1 million in federal transportation funding. Over the last seven years, local businesses and volunteers have donated hundreds of hours on the project.
Rutland resident Rob Black was walking with his wife and dog. "This is why I live here. This is unquestionably why I live here," he said. "These infrastructure investments are what make this place a great place to live."
Rutland resident Erica Walstrom, who was walking with her husband, said the grassroots effort that created the path says a lot about where the city’s going.
"Moments like this you celebrate the progress you have made," she said. "The path actually walks past buildings that are beautiful and areas that are wonderful and then it also goes by rundown, empty storefronts." But Walstrom said, "that’s just sort of a reminder of where we want to go and that we can always make it better and improve."
Organizers say they hope to complete the next segment of the bike and pedestrian path next summer.