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Dorset explores future at local event

2019-07-18

By Samuel Cochrane, as seen in the Manchester Journal: https://www.manchesterjournal.com/stories/dorset-explores-future-at-loca...

DORSET — Dorset community members will meet next week to discuss the future of their town. The Vermont Climate Economy Communities Program, led by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, will lead discussions during the kickoff event Wednesday. The program, named Dorset Tomorrow by the local planning team, will begin with a community dinner and discussion at The Dorset School that evening.

"Dorset is fortunate to have been awarded the chance to have Vermont Council on Rural Development visit and gather our residents for what should be an interesting and rewarding process" said Dorset's town manager Rob Gaiotti in an email.

The program provides a forum for community discussion on future economic vitality and affordability in a time when climate change is already impacting businesses and individuals in Vermont. Energy efficiency, transportation, renewable energy and sustainable development will be on the list of discussion topics at the kick-off event.

"This program capitalizes on the creativity and neighborliness of participating citizens as they come together to make their community more vibrant, affordable, and sustainable," said VCRD's Model Communities Program Director, Jon Copans. "As a place that attracts visitors from far and wide, Dorset is well-positioned to serve as a model of rural vitality for other towns in Vermont and across the country."

Over the months following the kick-off meeting, the local planning team for Dorset Tomorrow will continue to lead discussions on the topics that local residents find most important. As actions are brainstormed by community members, groups will be formed to focus on selected projects to strengthen the town of Dorset.

"Our selection to participate in this program provides a great opportunity to come together as we consider the future of our town," said Jim Salsgiver, a leader of the local planning team for Dorset Tomorrow and member of Dorset's Select Board. "We have a real opportunity to have this program generate some positive results for Dorset."     

The VCRD sponsored program provides services to two communities each year by mediating discussion and encouraging planning for a sustainable future. The organization led a process in Middlebury in the fall of 2017 and gathered the support and input from nearly 200 area residents. The process yielded project teams whose work is ongoing, towards goals of reducing carbon emissions and strengthening the economic, social and environmental resilience of Addison County.

On top of the concrete actions the nonprofit helped spur, the process has shown how a community can work to improve communication about the risks and pressures of changing climate as well as other issues, something that Dorset can only benefit from as priorities are set for the future of a small town.