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Plainfield, Marshfield team up to tackle climate change locally

2019-06-21

By Eric Blaisdell, as seen in the Times Argus: https://www.timesargus.com/news/local/plainfield-marshfield-team-up-to-t...

MARSHFIELD – The towns of Plainfield and Marshfield have joined forces to deal with climate change on a local level.

The towns have formed RAMP, or Revitalizing All of Marshfield and Plainfield, where residents and state and regional officials work together to strengthen the towns in the face of climate change and to make the towns more energy efficient.

RAMP held a meeting at Twinfield Union School Thursday with about 50 residents in attendance.

Jon Copans, climate economy model communities program director for the Vermont Council on Rural Development, said both towns applied to participate in the Council’s year-long program. He said this process started a couple months ago. According to the Council’s website, the program helps communities “identify strategies to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. The challenge (of climate change) also presents an economic opportunity as we pivot away from fossil fuels.”

Copans invited Rich Phillips, of Marshfield, and Bob Atchinson, of Plainfield, up to talk because he said they were the driving force behind getting the towns on board with the program.

Phillips said he was quite pleased with the turnout for Thursday’s event and with the turnout of previous events. He said he can and has come up with plenty of ideas when it comes to energy, but those ideas don’t go anywhere without the support of the community.

“And tonight’s attendance makes me feel good about that,” he said.

Atchinson brought up Thursday’s weather as an example of why efforts like this are necessary. There were flood warnings due to heavy downpours that swelled rivers and caused washouts on some roads.

“If you don’t think it’s a climate emergency, look again. Because the events keep going on,” he said.

He said RAMP’s goal is to try and “do the right thing,” and see if they can turn things around.

Residents then broke up into four task forces to tackle certain aspects of climate change and energy efficiency.

One task force focused on strengthening the towns’ village centers and improving the Route 2 corridor that passes through the towns in an effort to ensure the long-term health of the two communities. That group looked at the housing stock in the towns and will work on ways to revitalize some of the housing stock. They also want to work on joint branding for the towns to build a sense of a region instead of independent towns.

The second task force looked at building a farm-and-food network in the towns to help share resources and other opportunities. They want to reinvigorate the Plainfield Farmers’ Market by holding events there to get more people to attend. The task force also discussed changing locations for the market to get more traffic from those traveling on Route 2. And the task force will work on increasing communication between food producers, as well as putting out a survey to find out who is producing what in the two towns.

The third task force focused on improving transportation options in an effort to increase mobility, reduce costs and reduce emissions in the towns. They are working on trying to get people to utilize services such as online tools from the state for carpooling or vanpooling. The group also wants to look at improving communication between residents so they can easily hitch a ride with a neighbor or let residents know a seat or two in someone’s vehicle is available if they need it.

And the fourth task force looked at increasing renewable-energy generation in homes, businesses and other institutions. That group is working on making Twinfield a model of energy efficiency and solar generation. They also want to get residents who burn wood for heat to do so in a more efficient manner by changing out old wood stoves.