Winooski’s gentrification or rejuvenation, depending on your view point I guess, hasn’t gone unnoticed. The one square mile mill town across the river of the same name that divides it from the overshadowing city of Burlington has began to become known as “Burlington’s Brooklyn”, which is just another recent addition to a long list of American cities that are comparing themselves to the New York City borough in it’s own startling transition from desolate industrial wasteland turned place to grab a $21 cocktail.
My favorite area of Winooski is along it’s most defining feature, the Winooski River. The city made good on an idea to utilize their own waterfront area, and build an attractive river walk along it’s cascaded banks, which brings casual strollers from a nature area, behind the brick edifices of the city’s identity creating textile mills, before turning to a gravel path and following the relaxing river bank for a short distance until it sort of ends in a parking lot behind West Canal Street and another restored mill building. Winooski’s waterfront is a pretty area of deciduous forests, sandy river bank coves and an impressive set of falls that have deeply eroded glistening stony ledges. Parts of it are also surprisingly quiet from the hum of conjoined routes 2 and 7 nearby.
A few days ago, while walking along the Winooski banks, I came across what I think is a cool find. A small path strayed from the trail, leading to the river. Because it’s my nature to explore stuff I stumble on, I changed direction. After veering off the trail and following the path through some thick overgrowth, I stumbled upon a rather nice beach underneath shady cottonwood trees. But there was something that made this beach different. Though it was hidden previously at trail level, the slight drop in elevation down at the beach opened up a cool feature – It’s backdrop was a set of stone arches and retaining walls, remnants of the once expansive mill operations here. These arches would have allowed runoff water from the turbines to discharge back into the river, now dry and filled with mud and driftwood. But it was the beach that was the most intriguing to me. Large portions were made up of deposits of crumbled brick fragments, most likely from the skulking remains of a collapsing industrial mill tower which looms over it – obscured by massive tanglewoods and shadows.
The question of how the brick fragments wound up on the beach, whether it was years of mother nature or human help is questionable, but finding a beach on a beautiful stretch of river cove made from hundred year old industrial brick crumbs is a pretty cool find none the less. The most logical theory I can think of is that years of rainfall have washed away the brick crumbs down through the old mill ponds, where they ended up on the sand bar near the river.
Quickly making the trek over to the mill tower near the beach, it takes on a completely different persona once the foliage fills in during the summer. The trees block out the sunlight, making the crumbling structure ominous in appearance, and shockingly hide it from view though it sits yards from the trail I was just on. Though I’ve already explored this location before, I loved the chance to revisit it and see it in a new perspective. There was also new graffiti I had noticed, which is common with locations close to urban areas.
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