Citizens of Middlebury and surrounding towns gathered on October 26 as part of the Greater Middlebury Climate Economy Initiative to prioritize action ideas that will guide the work of the program moving forward. Lively discussion and 2 rounds of voting resulted in the whittling down of a list of 22 community-generated ideas to 3 key priorities. Task Forces will now be formed to develop and implement plans for each of the selected action ideas. Those Task Forces will join another Task Force already formed focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities for homes, businesses, and other buildings.
On November 16 at 6:30 PM at Middlebury Union High School each Task Force will be joined by a visiting Resource Team of experts to develop action plans and identify resources that will help to move these plans forward. There will also be a discussion about developing an overarching vision to guide the process moving forward. All in the Middlebury area are invited to attend. Feel free to sign up for a Task Force by e-mailing Jon Copans at firstname.lastname@example.org or just come to the High School at 6:30 on November 16.
The 4 focus areas and Task Forces are:
- Advance public transportation, facilitate more ridesharing, and make Middlebury and surrounding towns the best possible place for biking and walking
The Middlebury area is well-positioned to develop a transportation system that provides great, affordable, healthy and low-impact options for community members and visitors alike. There is already a leading rural public transit system thanks to ACTR, and great options for biking and walking in and around Middlebury. And yet ownership of multiple personal or family vehicles and single-person trips remain both normal, necessary and a significant financial burden for many people in Addison County. Ridesharing represents an emerging strategy to increase options and reduce vehicles on the road. There are also innovative opportunities to increase transit ridership and to improve options to provide better service to individuals, businesses, and institutions. A more comprehensive transportation system coupled with parking on the outskirts of town could reduce the need for parking downtown and elsewhere. Working closely with partners including ACTR, this Task Force could do a holistic review of the transportation system in and around Middlebury. The Committee can then develop and implement a plan for transportation systems improvements including improved public transit options, better infrastructure and systems to support biking and walking, and increasing ridesharing options and participation. Large employers including Middlebury College and Porter Hospital could all have a role in moving this conversation forward.
- Increase staff capacity at the local and regional level to coordinate climate change and energy related actions
Implementing a successful climate-change agenda requires coordination among communities and staff resources to fully realize the potential of volunteer committees and neighborhood-based action. This Task Force can engage local citizens, select boards, the regional planning commission and other possible partners in a dialogue with the goal of increasing and deploying resources to implement climate-related programs.
- Help farmers transition to organic and regenerative practices
Transitioning from conventional farm practices to organic and regenerative practices can have a positive impact on the environment and a farmer’s bottom line. This Task Force will convene to develop incentives and other approaches to encourage an increase in organic farming and carbon sequestration in Addison County.
- Advance Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Opportunities for Homes, Businesses and Other Buildings
Middlebury already is a statewide leader in community-based efforts to encourage residential and business energy efficiency. A Task Force will take these efforts to the next level by working to significantly improve energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities for homes, businesses, and other buildings. The Task Force will work with work with utilities and other partners to expedite the pace of Middlebury’s transformation to an efficiency and renewable energy-based economy. The goal will be to implement solutions that address the complex set of barriers to more widespread adoption.
In addition to selecting the 4 focus areas, the group decided to develop a vision for the initiative to unify efforts of the Task Forces moving forward. The group also decided that engaging youth was a critical component of this process and that concerted efforts will be made to engage younger members of the community in all aspects of the Climate Economy Initiative as it moves ahead.
“The focus that our work will now take - on transportation, home and business energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities, agricultural practices, and building a sustainable and professional capacity to support this work - are all of critical importance," noted Steve Maier, Chair of the local effort. "Local leadership and participation is going to be key to moving action ideas forward and ensuring that they have positive benefits for all parts of our community."
“Those who gathered at the American Legion last Thursday evening came ready to grapple with big questions. There was deep and open dialogue about how the Climate Economy Initiative can have the greatest positive impact locally in creating economic opportunities and addressing challenges for those in the community while also establishing the Middlebury area as a model for other places,” noted Jon Copans, Program Director of the Climate Economy Model Communities Program. “Each of these four Task Forces now has important and exciting work to do – developing and implementing action plans that will turn these great ideas into practical community-based solutions.”