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New bike paths never seem to be born without controversy. Take the Derby bike path, a 3.86 mile long route that takes you from the edge of Newport in northeastern Vermont, (right by the local IRS  building) to the Canadian border. It opened in June 1999 despite some local resistance.

This is one of the most picturesque bike paths one could be on, especially around  sunset. The path, once the property of Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR), takes  you up a gentle incline, then right along the shore line of Memphremagog, passing  several estuaries. It offers panoramic views of stunning sunsets. The path, covered in crushed stone, which is packing down with time, ends right at the  border where there is no customs or immigration inspection (and no cameras yet, though there may be some sensors!).

But, the beauty and seemingly tranquil atmosphere of the Derby Bike Path is belied  by resentment. Local property owners are angry over what they claim is the usurping of their property rights, and of course, the right to privacy.

They may be right. One gets to peer at the backyards of some luxurious homes and to enjoy the private views that their owners have paid thousands for. Not surprisingly,  one can encounter the silent stare of an indignant property owner. "If looks could kill," is usually the feeling one gets. So, if you a visitor  from afar or "away" as they say in the Northeast Kingdom, you'd better  not stray off the 10 foot wide path (there's a soft shoulder anyway that will cause you to lose control so be careful!). More than one owner has motion detector alarms, flood lights and the like. Who knows, some of may even have guns! But, hey, that's the American way!

Derby Bike Path Opened by local politicians from Quebec and Vermont June 5th 1999


Timothy Palmer-Benson
Scenes of Vermont


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