Efforts continue to light Bennington Battle Monument blue and gold for Ukraine – Bennington Banner

BENNINGTON — Efforts to light up the Bennington Battle Monument in the national colors of Ukraine are continuing, with a number of key stakeholders and elected leaders saying they approve of the initiative to bathe the obelisk in blue and gold light.

State Rep. Mary Morrissey said she’s still working with Gov. Phil Scott’s office to expedite the needed permits for the tribute showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Their country was invaded at the command of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24, and the fight for the country continues as refugees stream into neighboring nations seeking shelter. 

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, a department of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, has jurisdiction over the monument, the state’s most popular historic destination. State Historic Preservation Officer Laura V. Trieschmann has said she’s working on the request, with the goal of meeting stakeholders’ potential concerns and determining how future lighting decisions might be made. 

According to Morrissey, the effort already has a permit from the village of Old Bennington and is seeking a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration to change the lighting scheme.

“The FAA requires the permit process with any change to the structure because of its height,” Morrissey said in an email.

“I had reached out to our congressional delegation to see if the permit could be expedited so that we can get our Bennington Monument, representing not only our Bennington area citizens, but all Vermont citizens, lit as quickly as possible,” Morrissey said. “Congressman Peter Welch’s office reached back out to me, and we are coordinating these efforts with the governor’s office and our senators.”

In a letter to the editor of the Banner from the Old Bennington Village Board of Trustees, James Gallen said the board supports the idea, which was floated by Bennington business owner Phil Pappas and Bennington Select Board member Jim Carroll.

“The trustees of Old Bennington encourage the lighting of the Bennington Battle Monument to honor the people of Ukraine. It is our sincere hope that in 245 years, the people of Ukraine can look to their own monument commemorating their successful battle against tyranny,” the letter reads.

Gallen noted that the Battle of Bennington “stands as a focal point in history: a moment when valiant heroes showed that an empire was no match for the collective spirit of a people who yearn for liberty.”

“Now this same fight for freedom has found its way to Ukraine. Though thousands of miles and ocean and land separate us, the common calling for self-sovereignty unites us,” Gallen said.

One of the concerns raised by state officials about the plan centers on whether lights bright enough to illuminate the blue-gray limestone of the monument might affect pilots taking off and landing from William H. Morse State Airport, about 2 miles to the west.

Jamie Hildenbrandt, the president of Vermont Airport Services and Hildt Aviation, the fixed base operator at the airport, and John Likakis, an avionics technician and local pilot, said they are in support of the plan, as well.

“There’s no concern whatsoever on our part,” Hildenbrandt said. “Actually, I think it’s a good idea. I don’t see at all how it would affect anything — in fact it will make it easier to find the airport.”

Hildenbrandt and Likakis said the relevant FAA regulation requires a red obstruction light for structures higher than 200 feet — which the monument already has.

“The only restriction is that whatever lighting you’ve got not blind the pilots,” Likakis said. “Even that could be dealt with, with a notice to airmen” — a site-specific warning about a potential visual issue, he added.

The lighted monument would not present a problem for the FAA or local pilots, Likakis said, adding, “A lot of pilots use the monument as a point at which to execute a turn for final approach.”