It is too bad the community planning initiative Bennington is undertaking with help from the Vermont Council on Rural Development, and the many state officials and experts the process will bring to town, couldn't pursue all of the excellent ideas generated in recent forums. Four were selected Thursday for addressing by smaller citizen groups, including:
- Develop a Bennington vision statement, improve communications and create a positive town image.
- Make downtown Bennington a destination and build a new town green.
- Collaborate with local groups to address poverty and expand dental care.
- Build a community center, renew and expand the town recreation center and build a skate park.
Even those at the communitywide meeting Thursday at the Bennington Firehouse, disappointed that their favorite project was not chosen, should understand that the momentum these initiatives produce could easily spill over into other projects, spearheaded by some of the same area residents. In addition, many of the proposals already are the focus of organizations like the Better Bennington Corp., the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bennington County Industrial Corp., Bennington County Regional Commission and other groups and local and state officials or departments.
If anyone or any group wants to push a particular initiative, they likely can find people already committed to it. With that in mind, we think it would be good to create, as a byproduct of this community effort, a standing group interested in economic development issues.
This group or committee might keep abreast of all the efforts by the various agencies or organizations or individuals and periodically issue a set of recommendations with advice or comments. Such a group of interested citizens might help focus all of the development activities toward the common goal of improving the local economy.
Another specific development we would like to see is one that incorporates some of the organizational expertise of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council in its health care, fuel fund, food bank and other programs. Except this would be to provide intense mentoring and tutoring assistance for low-income students, perhaps bringing together formal groups like the Tutorial Center and other entities to significantly increase the options for young people.
Whatever your particular interest in helping the Bennington area, you can be sure someone else is thinking along the same lines. The key is to seek them out, get organized and get it done.