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By Keith Whitcomb Jr., as seen in the Rutland Herald:

MENDON — Making Route 4 better, and boosting outdoor recreation are the town’s top priorities coming out of two big public hearings held over the past two months.

“I think anyone who knows Mendon knows the most prominent thing is this stretch of Route 4 that goes through it, which has the potential to be a great benefit for the community, but also has the challenge of making it so there isn’t necessarily a downtown or a town center,” said Danielle Monroe, a Mendon resident and chairwoman of the Mendon on the Move group.

Mendon on the Move is the name of the effort being facilitated by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. The VCRD works with Vermont communities to focus the effort and attention of community members to improve their towns in whatever ways locals see fit. Two public forums have been held in Mendon where people have talked about and identified their priorities.

Monroe said Friday about 40 people have stepped forward to carry on the work. The next step is organizing the two committees that will work on the Route 4 improvement project, and boosting outdoor recreation.

“At the end of the last meeting, people broke into those two groups to meet with resource team leaders, so we had folks from the Agency of Transportation, from the Department of Housing and Community Development, from USDA Rural Development, the Vermont Community Foundation, The U.S. Forest Service, we brought them with us and they met with these groups to help them develop action plans and a list of resources to support the work,” said Jenna Koloski, community and policy manager at VCRD.

During the coming weeks, a report on everything that came out of the forums will be made available online at, the website for Mendon on the Move. People interested in getting involved can make contacts there as well.

Other ideas, according to the site, included expanding housing, marketing Mendon, supporting and fostering local businesses, developing a community center, developing a co-working space, and improving community connection and events.

Koloski said in some communities, the vote is close when it comes to what ideas will be prioritized, but here, the two front runners were clear.

“I think in a community of this size, two makes a lot of sense,” she said. “To have 40 volunteers signed up for two priorities, that’s strong. It concentrates the capacity for leadership.”

Monroe, a resident of Mendon for 15 years, and current executive director of the Wonderfeet Kid’s Museum in Rutland City, said the Route 4 group will likely have several projects and angles to work on, given the broad nature of the goal.

“I think the main priorities that people want to see addressed on that stretch of Route 4 are one, that we do have these hotel properties that are not in use, so is there a way to redevelop those properties or find new buyers for those properties, I think that was definitely one of the things we heard most in all of the community forums,” she said.

Also, people want to make Route 4 more identifiable as being part of the town, she said.

“We have all of this frontage and traffic that goes through town, how can we communicate to people that, hey, you are in the town of Mendon, and Mendon would be a great place for you to stop,” said Monroe.