Williamsville bridge needs fixing

Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to our legislators in Montpelier.

As you must know, the single lane bridge across the Rock River in Williamsville is in disrepair. At our recent Town Meeting, we learned that the state has begun the preliminary studies for its repair or replacement, which is good news. That this might take a very long time, as with the replacement of the Williamsville Covered Bridge and the bridge in South Newfane, is of great concern, as is the possibility of simply closing the road while the bridge is fixed rather than installing a temporary span.

Built in 1934, the single-lane Cement Arch Bridge seems modest enough. However, as we learned in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, this humble span plays a critical role not just in Williamsville or Newfane, but regionally. When the storm undermined the newer, bigger, more impressive bridge across the Rock River at Route 30, traffic from the state highway was rerouted over the Cement Arch Bridge for three weeks. While the Arch Bridge couldn’t accommodate the largest rigs, it did allow critical access for people and supplies from Brattleboro and points south up to Jamaica, where storm damage closed the highway entirely. The Cement Arch Bridge was like the "Little Engine That Could" -- carrying traffic beyond its capacity, and allowing recovery activities to progress.

The Arch Bridge is also critical for emergency services. Without it, the South Newfane-Williamsville Volunteer Fire Department would have to take a long and hilly detour to reach any incident on the Dover Road. Thanks to this bridge, they are invariably first on the scene when there is an accident on Depot Road.

This is also the bridge used by visitors to our local attractions: Olallie Daylilies, Vermont Open Studios, and the Rock River Artists’ Tour -- as well as the annual parade commemorating the recovery from the devastation wrought by Irene. Indeed, it’s a small miracle that the Arch Bridge withstood that storm.

Aside from local traffic, the Arch Bridge carries considerable traffic from Interstate 91 to points west, most notably Wilmington, Dover and Mount Snow -- a four-season resort. It plays a vital role in the economic vitality of both the West River and Deerfield Valleys.

Not only does the bridge carry all the traffic vital to our livelihoods, it does so with grace and safety. It’s a pretty bridge, and as a single-lane span, it adds a level of traffic calming that helps preserve the quality of village life.

I do hope that the bridge will be repaired or replaced sooner rather than later, and that any project that will take more than a few weeks will dictate the placement of a temporary span for the safety and security of both our neighborhood and our region.

Deborah Luskin,

Newfane, March 14

Arrogant, insulting and patronizing

Editor of the Reformer:

Reading Vidda Crochetta’s letter on women and religion ("On religion, gender," March 4) it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

I don’t know if Mr. Crochetta has ever actually looked at the Religion page that runs on Saturdays in this very newspaper, but if he had, he might have noticed that the majority of the pastors of our area mainstream Protestant churches -- United Church of Christ, American Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal -- as well as the leaders of our local Jewish congregation and Baha’i group are women. A smarter, braver, more independent thinking group of women I don’t think you’ll easily find. Did it ever occur to him to have a conversation with any of them, and ask their thoughts-- or better yet, sit through one of their worship services-- before stating that their faith "treats them like chattel, biblically condemns them as ‘unclean’, subjects them as second-class citizens, or worse"?

I have had the privilege of having conversations with women of many faiths -- my own, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Sufi -- and regardless of whether or not I see things quite the same way, I have rarely not been inspired and moved by their intelligence, strength and grace.

As a woman of faith, a proud feminist and bleeding-heart liberal, I find his notion that women are "unable to breakaway (sic)" and that "few women cut themselves loose from the collective of patriarchal religion" not only ridiculous, but arrogant, insulting and just as patronizing and ignorant as the absurdly monolithic idea of religion he excoriates.

No, Mr. Crochetta, I don’t feel downtrodden or "trashed" when I sit in my pew on Sunday mornings. I feel uplifted, valued as a whole human being, loved, empowered, and much of that has to do not only with the woman standing at the pulpit and her message, but my sisters in my faith community.

Heidi Mario,

Brattleboro, March 4

Respect, don’t eat, animals

Editor of the Reformer:

I appreciate the Reformer giving attention to Christopher Leonard’s recent book, "The Meat Racket" (Our Opinion, March 13). On the same day, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times devoted his column to Leonard’s book as well, pointing out how Tyson alone "slaughters 135,000 head of cattle a week, along with 391,000 hogs and an astonishing 41 million chickens." I have not yet read the book, but I hope it will shed much needed light on the unsavory realities behind this industry and help lead to a modern discussion on the myriad consequences of treating animals as products.

The Reformer’s assessment that "there are as many abuses of the free market in vegetable production as there are in the meat industry" may be true when it comes to the corporate monopolies that control both industries. But I believe this parallel masks the far more reprehensible abuses unique to the merchandizing of animals (corn doesn’t care if it is tossed live into a grinder), and thereby undercuts the Reformer’s perceptive suggestion that "the root of all this is the American consumers’ willful blindness to the abuses of the industry."

Can we, as a society, finally and permanently extend our definition of the "abuses of the industry" beyond those abuses which only affect us (humans)? We are so quickly indignant and shocked when we learn of the food-borne illnesses created by factory farm animals’ tenement style living conditions, by uber-capitalism’s bottom line myopia and the threats this poses to our health, to our environment. And we should be. But what about the animals? When will we recognize the intrinsic worth of every animal -- whether a pig, a dog, a dolphin, a horse, or a cow -- and have the courage to make choices, to make changes in our diet that integrate our belief in justice for all with what we do?

I guess I am "one of those back-to-nature types who annoyingly prattles on about their own righteousness" (even though I highlight my hair and hate camping). I guess the price I pay for the "abnormality" of my non-meat-eating is that my true motivations will never be legitimized. But enter Henry David Thoreau, the father of back-to-nature, and a vegetarian. He wrote, "I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized."

I don’t think Thoreau, or most people who choose to abstain from eating animals, are self-righteous. I just think we see animals in a different light and want a different future. I just think we are looking for the meat of the truth.

Meredith Anton,

West Dover, March 17

Hard to believe

Editor of the Reformer:

You’re kidding right? I must be missing something here. I am reading about a recent sexual assault case ("Wilmington man sentenced in sex assault," March 13). A 28-year-old man and two other men commit sexual assault of a girl under 16 years of age walk free with no prison time? How can this be? Then the article goes on to say that all three men involved can get the felonies off their record if they behave. You have to be kidding me. What is this world coming to?

Derek Doucette,

Dummerston, March 17