By Amy Ash Nixon as seen in the Caledonian Record: http://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/local/local-economy-downtown-recrea...
LYNDON — The three-part Lyndon Community Visit Process brought to town through the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) concluded this week, with the final session at Lyndon Institute on Tuesday evening.
While the formal visit process is wrapped up, the real work now begins to address the identified priorities.
According to Jenna Koloski, VCRD community and policy manager, those priorities include revitalizing downtown, strengthening community and school partnerships and working to build a recreation program for Lyndon.
The process kicked off in mid-February when more than 120 Lyndon community members shared ideas for the town’s future during nine forums held on topics ranging from transportation to supporting strong families to recreation and trails and more, Koloski said on Wednesday.
The second visit, on April 4, saw residents discuss and narrow down nearly two dozen potential ideas for action.
The group voted on the four key priorities and signed up volunteers to work on task forces, which met on Tuesday night at LI, Koloski said. They will continue to meet and work on ideas to advance improvements in each area.
Four Priorities Lead to Task Forces
On Tuesday night, a team of representatives from state, federal, business and non-profits were assembled in Lyndon to help those fledgling task forces “… to frame out action plans and resources to help them succeed,” said Koloski.
She said, “The new community college school partnership unites key leaders from each lead institution to expand coordination and enrich educational opportunities for students and the full community.”
“A group focused on downtown revitalization built an ambitious agenda to engage the community in the development of a master plan and vision for a downtown that serves locals and visitors year-round and cultivates a cultural and arts presence in the community,” Koloski said.
Another of the four task forces that has resulted from the process is Support Business Growth and Economic Development, said Koloski, and that group “met to line up action steps and a list of resources to survey existing economic conditions and community needs and work with outside experts and the community to attract and support local business, market Lyndon to attract employers, visitors, residents, and youth, and build regional partnerships to boost economic development in the town.”
Finally, the task force which will work on recreational opportunties saw a great deal of interest this week.
“The new Unified Recreation Program and Community/Recreation Center Task Force outlined a vision for a Lyndon recreation program that brings together all of the recreation assets and programs in the community to be staffed by a dedicated recreation director,” said Koloski.
Local Co-Chairs Hope for Community Participation
The local co-chairs for the process are Patty Emery and Mike Flynn, who will work with the committees and serve as liasions to the VCRD.
Flynn said on Wednesday the final visit with teams of agency representatives on hand was productive, and there were officials from the USDA Rural Development and more on hand.
There are volunteers on each task force eager to make improvements to make Lyndon and Lyndonville more vibrant, said Flynn.
The school-community group is looking for ways to connect kids with the many opportunities right in town, including the two independent schools, Thaddeus Stevens and the Riverside School, to Lyndon Town School, Lyndon Institute and Lyndon State College, said Flynn. Officials were on hand from across the educational landscape in Lyndon wanting to be part of the work. “It’s a really strong group…We want to make kids more aware of their opportunities.”
The largest group is the recreation task force, and there is interest in seeing the town one day have a recreation director, and a website for the resources in the community, said Flynn.
Representatives from Powers Park/the Village Improvement Society and the Lyndon Outing Club addressed the group on Tuesday evening, said Flynn. He said there is interest in how the now-vacant Kennametal building in the heart of Lyndonville may be a site for a community/recreation center because of its central location across from Powers Park.
The task forces will meet individually in the next few weeks and begin a year-long process of building strategies to make positive changes in the town, said Flynn.
“It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and the shoulder to the wheel and develop a course of action because it ain’t going to happen in a day or overnight,” said Flynn.
“There’s no rush here; whatever we come up with will serve the community better than what we have now. We’re going to look at other communities, like Littleton,” he said, which has a thriving downtown, and ask them, “How did you guys do that?”
Emery said her downtown revitalization task force group, “… is anxious to see an inventory of available commercial and retail locations. NVDA is currently working on the commercial/industrial sites, and the retail are more obvious. We agreed we would like to hear from the residents about their wants/needs to be sure we are aligned in our thinking.”
“It is exciting and we are hopeful that many more will want to join in,” as the task forces begin their work, said Emery. “We are also thankful that there are people skilled in these areas that will be helping us with expertise and possible funding.”
Community members interested in the task forces’ work are welcome and encouraged to join in on the work ahead.