Ludlow hears about proposed Ridgeway HUB project

LUDLOW, Vt. – The Ludlow Selectboard were briefed on a proposed “Ridgeway HUB” project at their meeting Monday, June 7 by Carol Lighthall, director of the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, which could result in a Train Station “Base Camp” including a train stop for the scenic Green Mountain Railroad, visitor center, bike and e-bike rentals, café, drivers lounge, public restrooms, an EV charging station, and other shops at their proposed location on Witalec Road.

Still in the planning stages, the project is a joint effort between the local Chamber and Green Mountain Railroad. In early steps in the project, VT Rail Systems and the state have approved moving Ludlow’s historic train depot from its current location via flatbed on the railroad to the new proposed location on Witalec Road. VRS and GMRR are applying for a grant to restore the historic train depot station to its “former glory” and build a new platform.

Total cost of the project, which could range from $1.6–2.6 million, is expected to come from federal infrastructure funding, congressional earmarks, or grant funds. Other potential funding sources are also being considered including investment from a local restauranteur. Lighthall expects operational costs to be covered by tenant income, investment, or common space fees. According to Lighthall, there would be a neutral expense to the town, with no increase in taxes.

The train stop would add another stop on the GMRR scenic railway, which currently has only one stop in Chester between Rutland and Bellows Falls stretch. GMRR operates five days a week starting in September through October, three times a day, moving approximately 14,000 visitors in the course of their five-week operation schedule. They are also hoping to add winter runs as well.

OVRCC is looking for approval from the Selectboard to move forward with the project within 30 days, and asked to work with a few board members or other interested parties to discuss and solve any possible parking challenges with Okemo Mountain Resort, options for providing safe trails or paths down to the village, and other infrastructure considerations as they move forward.

Board member Justin Hyjek said he would participate in a limited capacity. Board Chair Bruce Schmidt also suggested Lighthall include a representative from Okemo as well, pointing to former board member John Neal, who is director of facilities at Okemo, and who was sitting in the audience at the meeting. Municipal Manager Scott Murphy will also continue to work with the project.

In other news, the stone house property, which was demolished over a year ago and remains a pile of rubble on Main Street and the corner of Commonwealth Avenue, is again before the Selectboard with Schmidt saying removal of the debris is a priority for both the village and the town.

Murphy updated the board saying that the Colonial Motel, which is on the same site, has just been sold and the new owners may be involved in a solution. Schmidt indicated that although it’s under the Village Trustees authority, the Selectboard would also help solve the issue, even if it means purchasing the property itself. The board should have more information at next month’s meeting.

Jeff Tucker, from Dubois and King, presented a recommendation to the board for long-term planning and preventative maintenance of five dam sites along Jewell Brook. The dams are currently all in good shape but this would be something in place over a decade into the future. The board approved the proposed option, which would require a 35% match from the town with staggered rehab to start likely in 10 to 12 years.

Fuller Sand and Gravel was awarded the paving for Bixby Road, Witalec Road, and Town Farm Road. After that approval, Murphy informed the board that the town had been awarded an unexpected Municipal Highway Class 2 Roadway grant, which would cover $36,000 of a $40,000 project for class 2 Andover Road. Murphy asked the board to bypass their usual bidding procedure to award this paving project to Fuller as well since they would be doing the other paving and they could expect some efficiencies if they did all four projects. The board approved the suggestion but Schmidt cast a lone “no” vote, saying he felt it sent a bad message to skirt the policy.

Two speed bumps and two “No Trespass” signs have been added to the Red Bridge area on Lake Rescue as well as increased police patrols and more rigorous trash removal in an attempt to curb past parking and littering problems in that area. Murphy said they would see how that worked this year but may need to make other changes in future.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 12 at 6 p.m., due to the July 4 holiday.

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