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(HOST) According to commentator Philip Baruth, the Burlington Bikepath is experiencing an alarming amount of erosion. But it’s not himself or his family that Philip’s worried about it’s the celebrity look-alikes who bike and jog the path on a daily basis. Here’s Philip.

(BARUTH) Here’s a fact I can personally vouch for: Burlington has way more than its share of people who look exactly like semi-famous celebrities. But what most people don’t know is that for whatever reason, the Burlington Bikepath has the highest concentration of these look-alikes, and that concentration gets higher the further north you go.

So by the time you’ve passed Leddy Beach, out in the New North End where I live, every sixth or seventh biker or rollerblader is a dead ringer for someone you remember from a 70s sit-com, or a five-year-old People magazine.

Never A-level celebrities, or even B-level. More like B-/C+.

And since I walk my dog every day out to the bridge at Maye’s Landing, I’ve become familiar with some of these look-alikes. There’s Donald Sutherland, for instance, who jogs along in neon purple shorts, checking his pulse-meter with the air of a guy who really doesn’t care too much anymore.

Why? Well, this is a guy whose string of great films also unfortunately includes Space Cowboys and Castle of the Walking Dead. So Sutherland has absolutely no idea whether history will remember him as master of his craft or a relentless hack, and he jogs like a man just killing time until the verdict comes down.

Down closer to the bridge I always pass the woman who looks exactly like Bea Arthur, star of the sit-coms Maude and The Golden Girls. My Bea Arthur always walks a sad-looking greyhound, a dog rescued from the track after a long and tumultuous career. And there’s Alan Alda and Gary Coleman and Heather Locklear and Gallagher, the comedian. And just as I reach the bridge, every day, I’ll run into Patrick Swayse. Swayze always sits on a bench, adjusting his rollerblades, staring off toward the Colchester side. He always looks like he’s wondering what happened, exactly, after Dirty Dancing.

Now, if you haven’t been out to the northern tip of the Burlington Bikepath for a while, you should know something: it’s eroding at a disturbing rate. Last year a staircase to the beach came crashing down; this year the hillside past Starr Farm has vanished all the way to the macadum edge of the bikepath itself. Blue tarps have been pegged to the hillside, but no serious repair work is underway.

Word out of City Hall is that the bikepath is safe enough, and a plan will be in place to address the erosion come November. Of course, in November, the path will be covered with a foot of snow.

Now, a lot of people out in the New North End say this is typical. City Hall tends to take care of downtown first, the business arms of the city second, and the residences of the New North End only once it’s too late.

That’s as may be. I myself have another, larger worry. And it’s not for myself or my family, although we use the bikepath constantly. No, I’m worried about the semi-celebrity look-alikes trolling up and down that thin ribbon of pavement each and every day. What if the bikepath crumbles suddenly, and it’s someone important who’s lost, a Bea Arthur or, God forbid, Donald Sutherland himself?

I mean, this is the guy who looks like the guy who brought a quiet dignity to M*A*S*H and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And City Hall should never forget that, not for a minute.

Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington. He teaches at the University of Vermont.

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