Melissa O’Brien

It was Tuesday afternoon, when the kids get out of school early — dismissal is at 2 p.m. instead of 3. My daughter, Coco, had made a plan with some of her 8th grade friends to walk across the street after school to Philo Ridge Farm. I loved this idea, that the kids have a place they could walk to from their school. I loved their planning and I loved, even more, the execution, which I saw because I drove past the school at just the moment when they were being chaperoned from CCS to Philo Ridge by none other than their principal, Jen Roth.

Now some might groan and wonder where the autonomous childhood went, why 13-year-olds need someone to walk them across the street, and believe me, I understand this. When I was a kid we ran amok for hours and hours in the neighborhood where we lived and much farther afield. I rode my bicycle everywhere, and Saratoga Springs — the town in which I grew up — was a great location for that kind of freedom. This has most definitely been the thing I wish were different about my kids’ growing-up years here in Vermont: that we parents have to drive them everywhere, that there seems to be constant vigilance on the part of adults these days.

Still, when I saw the pack of girls and the principal walking with them, something in me sighed with a kind of contentment. I liked that the adults at my daughter’s school care enough to do something like that. I liked seeing all of them walking together, away from school.

I met the girls at the farm. We got our snacks, sandwiches, drinks and then sat down out back at one of the picnic tables. “I think we should make this a Tuesday afternoon thing,” one of them said. They were pleased with the way their afternoon had played out. They lamented the principal’s decision to walk them across the street, there was talk of a meeting later, back at CCS, to discuss this situation. A crosswalk was brought up as a possibility. Certainly that makes sense. This can only be the beginning of many years of CCS students walking across the street after school to enjoy some refreshments and down time at Philo Ridge. How nice. How lovely that this is here in our community now a place kids can get to propelled by their own two feet. 

Speaking of foot traffic … how wonderful that the underpass under Route 7, linking the two sides of our town is now open and ready for business. You will enjoy Laurie Thompson’s piece and Ramiro Garay’s photographs from that wonderful morning here in town. 

The heel-to-toe theme, which was not planned (I swear!), continues with our story of Ken Spencer and his marvelous contraption, the Planet Pack, and Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen’s wonderful piece about walking in the recent Pride Day Parade in Burlington.

Welcome to autumn! We hope you will take the time to fill out our survey, whether online or here, on paper, and send us your thoughts as we work to envision the future of this paper. Now get out there and walk around while the getting’s still good!