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Wallingford wants to have fun (and hike)


Susan Smallheer | May 24, 2018

By SUSAN SMALLHEER as seen in the Rutland Herald:

WALLINGFORD — The community needs more opportunities for residents to have fun, and ways to give the local economy a boost.

That was the top choice Wednesday night during the second part of a community visit organized by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, which works with towns across the state on issues of democracy, strengthening local communities and their economies.

About 50 people attended the second session of the three-part community visit, which started last month with forums on historic preservation and communication. More than 150 people participated in the first phase, and a drop in attendance as the planning develops is not unusual, said Paul Costello, VCRD executive director.

Residents said they missed townwide events from the past, such as chicken barbecues, fireworks and the annual auction.

“There were so many community activities and they’re still missed,” said resident Debbie Scranton. “We don’t have to resurrect the past.”

People urged better communication, such as building a community calendar and an outdoor bulletin board for flyers.

The residents’ second priority was boosting the town’s recreation opportunities, such linking existing trails with each other and with Otter Creek and Elfin Lake, or taking advantage of the Long Trail section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Wallingford.

The third priority was boosting the local economy, which includes attracting a food market to the town.

Many residents said they had to leave town to buy basic groceries.

The VCRD was invited by the Select Board about three years ago to work with the town, said resident Nan Dubin, who chaired the local effort and worked closely with the council.

Before the priority-setting meeting Wednesday, about a dozen residents gathered in front of Wallingford Elementary School for a portrait taken by Caleb Kenna, a Brandon photographer hired by the Vermont Community Foundation. Paige Pierson, of the Middlebury-based VCF, said her group was working with the VCRD on strengthening communities.

Kenna later walked the group down the street for a portrait on the steps of the Town Hall.

At last month’s session, many people in town said one of their priorities was to attract a deli or café to town.

Their wish is already coming true, said town Zoning Administrator Jeff Biasuzzi, noting that a café would soon open downtown. Renovations are already underway on the space, he said.

Others said the new owner of the Odd Fellows building, which houses Sal’s South Restaurant and Pizzeria, is interested in having food-related businesses as tenants.

Left off the top-three list — pared down from 14 — was starting a farmers market, establishing a dog park, improving parking and “walkability,” and working to address high-speed truck traffic on Route 7 that bisects the village.

Costello and Jenna Koloski, VCRD staffers, said people could still form subcommittees and tackle issues that didn’t make the top-three list.

“Remember, nothing’s lost,” Costello said of the original list.

Scranton spoke in favor of her pet project — the dog park.

“It’s not about the dogs,” Scranton said, adding that a fenced-in area for dogs and their owners would be a great place for people to socialize.

Residents signed up for the three top-priority committees. A third meeting is scheduled for June 21, at a location to be announced.