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Vernon Community Action Plan to Be Developed on July 7

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2016-06-27

The Vermont Council on Rural Development will hold its third, and last, major session in the Vernon Community Visit process on July 7th; all residents of the town are welcome to help line up action plans to move priority projects forward.

At the Community Meeting Day in June over 50 Vernon residents came together to set core priorities for future action in town. They reviewed 15 ideas that were gathered from focus forums in May with residents at the Vernon Community Visit Day and chose priorities designed to boost the community and advance the town’s economy into the future. At the end of the session, participants signed up as volunteers to advance these new initiatives.

On July 7th, these new task forces will meet in the Vernon Town Office building to frame out action plans and work with a resource team of federal, state, business, and non-profit leaders to identify next steps and resources that can help them succeed. So far, members of the Resource Team will include: Ben Doyle (USDA Rural Development), Craig Whipple (VT State Parks Director), Paul Bruhn (Preservation Trust), Gary Holloway (VT Department of Housing and Community Development), Susan McMahon and Jeff Nugent (Windham Regional Commission), Nancy Owens (Housing Vermont), Joan Weir (Vermont Land Trust), Patrick Olstad (Landworks), and Kate Ash (Senator Leahy’s Office).

VCRD’s Community and Policy Manager, Jenna Whitson, said “We look forward to bringing the new task forces together for the first time to work with leading Vermont experts within each priority area to build a concrete list of action steps and identify both human and financial resources available to support those efforts.”

Vernon Community Visit Chairperson Art Miller looks forward to the meeting: “This next meeting on July 7th is pivotal. We will be setting up task force teams and transition from ideas to actions!” He encourages all community members to “come be part of the process, even if you have not been to any previous meetings. Some actions can be implemented this year, while others could take a generation or longer. Either way, our town will be different and you will have a role in crafting that future. Plan now to attend!”

The new task force groups will be working on three core priorities:

  • A Develop the Riverfront and Improve Trails, Outdoor Recreation task force will work to improve access to trail networks, clean up the riverfront area, and plan longer-term strategic riverfront improvements.
  • A task force will work to open a Community Store and Café.
  • The Enhance Village Center task force will envision, plan, and design a center point for the community over time and work to make it happen.

Note that at the Community Meeting on June 8th, Vernon residents also decided to prioritize and continue to support the ongoing work of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission. VCRD will bring a team at a future session (date TBD) to review action steps and resources that will help support economic development and business growth, develop a business incubator, improve fiber optic networks, and build a utility scale energy project.

All members of the Vernon Community are invited to participate in this third phase of the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s (VCRD) Community Visit to the Town of Vernon. The meeting will be held on Thursday July 7th from 6:30 – 9:00pm at the Vernon Town Office building.

The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing rural Vermont communities. For more information, contact Jenna at 802-225-6091 or jenna@vtrural.org or visit: http://vtrural.org/programs/Community-Visits.

Vernon Resource Meeting
July 7th 2016
6:30-9pm
Vernon Town Office

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Here’s more about the priorities identified for action:

Develop the Riverfront and Improve Trails, Outdoor Recreation

Vernon residents feel that the riverfront is an important, but underused community asset. A degraded boat launch area limits access to the river, and safety concerns deter many from kayaking, boating, swimming, and developing trails in the area. Residents are also proud of their many trail, wildlife habitat, forest, and recreation assets. Ample trail networks crisscross the town through the Town Forest, on logging roads through private land and farms, on VAST Snowmobile Trails, and by the town’s pool and recreation area. Vernon could build a Conservation, Trails, and River Task Force to galvanize community volunteers to map and maintain existing trails, build new trails and improve access to trail networks, clean up the riverfront area, and plan longer-term strategic riverfront improvements. Vernon residents envision a rebuilt and accessible boat launch, a park with trails along the river, and boat access and a place to rent canoes and kayaks. The group could revisit past plans to develop the area, connect with area landowners such as the concrete company to explore purchase or partnering opportunities, identify potential funding sources, and define and lead a realistic step by step platform to advance a community vision for riverside revival and enjoyment. Additionally, the group could take on conservation initiatives to engage Vernon residents in protecting and learning about the natural resources in the town including offering naturalist programs and workshops, engaging in citizen science programs such as the annual bird count or amphibian crossing initiatives, or offering an “adopt a trail” program to engage residents in trail maintenance. This work could establish Vernon as a regional trail and recreation hub, offering ample opportunity for locals and drawing in visitors from around the state and region.

Open a Community Store and Café 

Vernon residents wish that there was a gathering place in town. Residents miss the sense of community and connection that were felt when the town had a small grocery store, and would like to come together to bring a grocery store with a deli and café back to the town. A task force could form to develop and implement a plan to set up and maintain a community-owned store and café. A local store would offer a local gathering place, create job or volunteer opportunities for local residents and youth, boost economic opportunity, and attract residents and visitors to town.

Enhance Village Center  

Vernon has several community assets that many towns across Vermont would love to have, including a high quality school, a great town office and library, a swimming pool, and a strong Recreation Department. However, many Vernon residents are concerned that the town lacks a cohesive center point or “heart center” for the community. A task force could form to work with community members and planning experts to envision, plan, and design for the redevelopment over time of the area around the village green and gazebo as a focal point for the town, essentially building a small Vernon downtown. The group could identify funding sources for redevelopment as well as host a design competition to provide ideas toward a master plan for redevelopment. Once established, a redeveloped green and village center point would provide a visual draw and focal point for the town, a place for visitors to stop, as well as a location to host events and community gatherings such as a farmers market, concerts, and community potlucks and picnics.

Support for ongoing economic development work

At the Community Meeting on June 8th, Vernon residents also decided to prioritize and continue to support the ongoing work of the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission (VPEDC). Community members recognize the importance of the ongoing work of the VPEDC in attracting businesses to the region, exploring opportunities to build the tax base, and planning for Vernon’s economic future. As this work is already in progress, residents chose to recognize this work as a priority and set these initiatives aside from the voting process, but to ensure that the work moves forward. VCRD will work in partnership with the Planning and Economic Development Commission to invite a team of regional and state economic development experts and leaders to Vernon to advise and lend support to the Commission’s initiatives which include the following:

-     Support Economic Development and Business Growth
-     Develop a Business Incubator
-     Improve Fiber Optic Networks
-     Build a Utility Scale Energy Project