By Eric Francis
KILLINGTON – On top of the mountain things are quickly gelling back together but the main priority is simply roads, roads, roads.
“The major impact is simply the loss of revenue for our tourism industry,” said Seth Webb, director of economic development at Killington who has been manning the temporary command post at the fire department where relief efforts for Killington, Mendon, Pittsfield and West Bridgewater have been coordinated since the hurricane hit.
“September is traditionally a strong month for us leading into fall foliage,” Webb noted. “It will definitely have an impact to lose that revenue while we repair our infrastructure but we are working as quickly as we can to get all the roads back in place so people can come here and we can have fall foliage.”
Speaking in Quechee this week, Governor Peter Shumlin said getting Route 4 open up over Killington and Sherburne Pass again to normal traffic, especially for tractor-trailer trucks, is a major state priority right now.
“The progress we’ve made in a week is truly extraordinary. It’s a result of all the Vermonters who are reaching out to neighbors and taking care of each other and it’s that spirit of selflessness that it is really pulling us through,” Shumlin said, continuing, “Obviously the main east-west corridors are at the top of our list and AOT is working hard right now to get those repaired. We are bringing in equipment from out of state, the National Guard, Corps of Engineers, you name it, we’re on it. We should have a timeline for restoring the east-west corridors later this week.”
At Killington resort, “Our intent is to open by October 1st, or before then if we can,” Webb said. “We are working with the Agency of Transportation daily to try and gauge that goal and right now we are cautiously optimistic.”
“October 1st is the goal to turn back on the marketing machine,” Webb explained, noting, “The resort is ready right now to open for business just as soon as the roads are completed. The resort did not sustain the type of damage that would prevent it from opening. The only reason we are not opening is there is no way to get here.”
Although there were dramatic pictures of damage to the main lodge at the ski resort, Webb said they left a somewhat misleading impression about the scope of the damage there. “The resort is in good shape. The K1 lodge is intact,” Webb said. “The Superstar Pub, which was an extension that was built onto the K1 lodge, is what was destroyed. That is just a very small portion of the large footprint of the lodge. I think the resort is going to put some sort of temporary structure up there that is going to be pretty exciting for the wintertime.”
Beyond that, Webb said, “At the top of the mountain there were some washouts in the parking lots and things like that but it was the river basin along the bottom of the mountain that took the big impact.”
That swath of damage paralleled the Ottauquechee right from Sherburne Center down to West Bridgewater where major washouts all around the Route 4 and Route 100 intersection destroyed or heavily inundated a number of businesses, including Blackie’s gas station, the smokehouse, and even washed some homes totally away.
“The best way to explain it is like a huge explosion,” said Windsor County Senator John Campbell who inspected West Bridgewater earlier this week. “When you get to the bombed out area, you get the asphalt piled to where you can almost see the sedimentary layers like rings when you cut a tree. It’s both incredible and heartbreaking.”
“The most important thing is that we are through the first phase of this and I think it is really important to get the message out that Vermont is open for business and people should not cancel their reservations,” Campbell said. “People are going to see a wonderful foliage season so we hope they are still going to continue to come.”
This article was first published on September 9th edition of the Vermont Standard.