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Proctor residents looking for answers


By Katelyn Barcellos as seen in the Rutland Herald:

PROCTOR— Dozens of residents gathered at the Vermont Marble Museum on Wednesday night to brainstorm and hash out ideas to put the town back on the map.

Paul Costello, executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, introduced resource team members from organizations with information on how to help community members in their revitalization efforts.

“We’re here tonight to do some gestating around the three areas you chose last month,” Costello said. “When we come to this town, we see one of Vermont’s most historic marvels. The beauty of this town, it’s unsurpassed.”

He added, “The built environment, the heritage of an industry, the labor of thousands of men and women who built this place, who carved these stones, who chipped, who dug, who worked in the quarries and did dangerous work, for generations and produced this incredible built environment.”

The group then broke into the three separate task force groups. A group of 11 people gathered in the geology and quarrying section of the museum to discuss strategies to market Proctor as a place to live, work and do business.

Another team of seven congregated in the gift shop to discuss how they would build community engagement through events and communication. A third group of 14 focused on the redevelopment of Proctor’s historic buildings through a group discussion in the museum lobby.

In the marketing group, Selectman Bob Protivansky and resident Laura Marsh suggested changes to the town website, which is functional for residents, but could be optimized for others outside the community.

The community collectively agreed Wednesday night there haven’t been any efforts to spread the word about Proctor in the past.

“We kind of have a blank slate as far as marketing in general goes,” Marsh said.

“We need a good plan of attack.” Protivansky added.

The revitalization of the empty space in the marble museum and the two buildings across the street, as well as the giant Proctor waterfall and the popular Wilson Castle as a venue for more community activities, were also discussed.

The northwest neighborhood in Rutland served as inspiration for how a community can turn itself around. Residents discussed how the neighborhood had recovered from being known as a city crime hub several years ago, with a crime rate that has since dropped significantly as a result of community engagement efforts.

Suggestions for Proctor activities included a community barbecue every fourth Saturday of the month, as well as Touch-A-Truck events and movie nights to bring the community together.

Science Pub events at local restaurants, dog parks, a pet parade and an annual blessing of the animals were also discussed, as well as boosting marketing for the fall festival.

“Pets are definitely something that bring people together,” said Steve Costello, a vice president at Green Mountain Power who has been involved in Rutland community efforts.

Proctor residents also said they would like to see more of a connection with the local school system, holding events at the skating rink and community pool, and creating a townwide arts and crafts weekend.

“You’re in competition for the hearts and minds of your own kids, of people who grew up here and might come back, and people from around the world who may stay,” Paul Costello said.

The Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, Preservation Trust of Vermont, and Rutland Economic Development Corp. were all represented at the meeting.