story and photos by Dot Helling
One of the beauties of Montpelier is its “walkability,” a primary reason why I like living downtown, and so that I can drive as little as possible. Not only does less driving save on gas, but I feel I am doing my part to help save the environment by limiting emissions. It irks me when I see locals vying for parking spaces and then idling their cars to boot, but I’m not writing this piece to harp. I want to celebrate putting one foot in front of the other, a great way to push forward in life.
People walk for a myriad of reasons, including fitness, convenience, fund-raising and duty. I envy our walking postal squad on perfect spring, summer and autumn days. They walk our neighborhoods in all weather conditions. Their historic motto is “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays their couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” We have a dedicated fleet of men and women carriers on the Montpelier postal beat. Some have served for decades. Dave Montgomery who retired a number of years ago after 32 years of service was a favorite. Three generations of Montgomerys have worked for the Montpelier post office, first Dave’s father, then Dave and now his son Craig.
Rita Gluck has been a Montpelier mail carrier for over 25 years and loves the daily interactions with people. She says the job has brought out the “social animal” in her. Just don’t tell her how to deliver mail. Rita will tell you that, with all of her hands-on experience, she knows how to do the job, and doesn’t need technology or hierarchy to direct her. Her favorite downtown route covers seven miles. Brian Gilman works that route now, notable for his great “shorts” legs and “teddy bear” smile, plus the piles of mail he sorts as he walks.
The next profusion of duty walkers are the parking meter checkers and enforcement squad working out of the Montpelier Police Department. They make me think of the Beatles’ song “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid” and the words from that song that ask for her to “give me a wink.” Our newest meter maid in town belongs on our list of Montpelier’s friendliest and has “winked” while handing out violations. Sheila James works part-time as an enforcer. She may give you a chance to pop in that coin if time has just run out, as long as you aren’t notorious for “getting the boot.”
Charlie Pelletier worked for our Department of Public Works for 30 years and became a part-time parking enforcer after retirement from that job. He has worked the meters for ten years and usually pushes around the money collection cart. Michelle Amaral is the city’s only full-time enforcer and has worked this position since 1998 making her the city’s senior meter checker. These individuals work “on their feet” and put many miles on their personal meters walking the enforceable parking areas throughout Montpelier.
Our town has its share of “working dog walkers” and even a “dog whisperer” as some refer to the man who walks daily around town or in Hubbard Park with as many as six dogs and a scooter. He keeps the dogs well controlled and on leash, equipped with plenty of bags to pick up their poop. Now why can’t all of our individual dog owners do as much for the environment and dog politics so that all the dog controversy and debate in this little city might stop?
We have walkers who deliver. Two men, one young and one older, deliver The World newspaper weekly to downtown businesses, on foot with delivery bags. Lost Nation has a crew of volunteers who post notices of upcoming performances. City volunteers check and fill the downtown kiosk and other stations around town where informational materials for visitors are available and event notices are posted.
We have many walking fundraisers. In August Central Vermonters participated in the 2017 Walk for Children designed to raise funds to support child abuse prevention programs throughout Vermont. Other such walks include the Central Vermont Humane Society’s Walk for Animals. The State of Vermont’s annual Corporate Cup features a walk to encourage fitness among government workers. Local heritage groups organize self-guided and guided historic downtown walking tours. The Montpelier Tree Board holds tree walks. There is an ArtWalk held downtown and nature walks at the North Branch Nature Center.
Montpelier has many “walking” characters, some described individually by locals as “the walker,” one unique person at a time. A decade ago a very thin woman in black, with blonded, spiked hair, clunky heels and sometimes a cane, walked miles and miles every day, often headed up and down Berlin Street, as far as Barre City, in all kinds of weather. Today there is another thin woman who wears dark clothes with boots and walks up and down Route 2 towards Middlesex, dangerously facing away from traffic, carrying either pieces of luggage or what appear to be bags of groceries. There is also a well dressed older man who walks the recreation path behind the high school daily, lost in thought but always ready to flash a hello grin when addressed.
We have fitness walkers, i.e. persons out to lose weight, get fit or simply replace an activity they can no longer do (such as running), due to age, illness or injury. We have recreational and nature walkers often seen on the bike path or in Hubbard or North Branch parks, with and without dogs. Walkers originate from activities at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center. “Walks with Harris” (Harris Webster) around town meets weekly as do the “Trash Tramps” who walk around town performing a valuable community service, picking up litter.
Erich Rosenstreich and Mike Carbo are unique and special walkers. Erich is always out and about, athletically dressed, one of Montpelier’s friendliest residents, and ready to offer up unfiltered comments and compliments. He has pulled up from behind in many local running and walking events, consistently upbeat and broadcasting his winning smile. Mike is a disabled war vet who does his walking in his motorized wheelchair. Mike is a picture of freedom and joy as he whizzes around newly paved Montpelier with his hair blowing in the wind, his signature bandana, and a contented smile on his face. These two men have struggled in life and each has come to appreciate what it means to propel yourself forward, independently and outdoors in a beautiful place. With winter around the corner, now is a good time to start practicing how to push yourself out the door daily and put those feet forward one step at a time.
For information on where to walk in Montpelier, check out the guided trail brochure available in the downtown kiosk or on line at www.mapmywalk.com/us/montpelier-vt/