PUTNEY - After six years of applying for grants, design and then construction, Putney officials and residents held a ribbon cutting and silly hat parade to open the town's new sidewalk Saturday.
The approximately one mile of new sidewalk, which runs from the Putney Food Co-op to Town Hall, has been open for a few months, but on Saturday a small group of residents met to walk the length and officially recognize all of the work that went into getting it built.
"It's amazing to be here this morning," said former Town Manager Chris Ryan, who worked on the project but resigned this summer just weeks before the sidewalk was completed. "It was not always a straight-forward path to get here and it is a credit to everyone involved."
The $400,000 project went relatively smoothly once the concrete began to flow, Ryan said, but the studies, grant applications and designing made it seem at times like it would never get off the ground.
Ryan recognized the Selectboard members who were committed to making it happen.
"It was arduous at times but that's just the nature of projects like this," Ryan said. "The townspeople wanted it and we just kept plowing through it."
At the celebration Saturday about a dozen Putney residents met to cut the ribbon and walk the length of the sidewalk to the co-op.
"The town needed to celebrate this," said Louise Garfield, who helped pull together the Saturday morning event. "A lot of people worked to make this happen and those who live in the village have been watching the progress. We know it was quite an endeavor."
Carol Westing recognized the increased safety that the sidewalk provides and said seniors are more likely to get out and walk when they feel that much more protected.
"It's important for senior citizens and it's wonderful to walk through the village and feel safe," she said.
And while Saturday's parade was held to celebrate the work done to complete the sidewalk, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard said the town is moving ahead with phase two, which she hoped would not take as long as phase one.
Putney wants to extend the sidewalk north, up Route 5 toward Landmark College.
Landmark College has already contributed $11,500 toward the $23,000 preliminary engineering study for the northern sidewalk extension and Stoddard said the town and the college will hopefully continue to work together to help move the project along.
With Landmark's help the town was able to complete the study in time to get its application in to the state for the latest round of grants. Stoddard said the town expects to hear within a few weeks if Putney is going to receive a $450,000 Bike and Pedestrian Grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation for the phase two of the sidewalk project.
Even though the sidewalk up to Landmark will be approximately the same length of the southern section, costs are expected to be about $700,000 because the landscape is much more challenging with steep hills and turns.
"We've held a public meeting about phase two and people are supportive," said Stoddard. "I'm hopeful it will happen."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.