On Wednesday May 21, VCRD and a Community Visit Resource Team went back to Vergennes for our last session as facilitators of the Community Visit process. At this final visit, we kicked-off the Task Forces that address the three community priorities identified in the process.
Over the course of the prior three months, the people of Vergennes decided to focus on three areas for their city: 1) improve transportation, walking, biking and parking; 2) advance the economy and expand of the community and economic development capacity of the city; and 3) redevelop the falls basin and open a River Walk.
At last week’s Resource Team sessions, we worked on creating action plans and defining the many resources that can be leveraged to help Vergennes succeed in these areas. More than 60 local residents had signed on to be active participants in strategizing and implementing these important projects, and at least as many came on Resource Day to start turning these ideas into action.
These folks came because they truly believe in helping to improve Vergennes. One resident, who attended the session on the River Walk, said he attended because, though he had been living in Vergennes for three years, he hadn’t known that it had water falls and such an active boating presence. He came to the meeting to make sure Vergennes does a better job of making these benefits known throughout the community. Attendees across each of the sessions expressed similar passion and excitement over these projects.
As he has been throughout this whole process, Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton was on hand, both to cheerlead the participants and to ensure that the Task Forces remain accountable and productive. Seeing him in action, it’s no wonder his name came up more than any other back when I was talking to the diverse members of the community to find a key statesperson in Vergennes to serve as the Chair of the Community Visit process.
Bill will serve as the “chair of the task force chairs” to coordinate all the work moving forward. He announced his appointees at our meeting. For the economic development team, Bill tapped local resident Sarah Cowan, who is a Vice President at the nearby National Bank of Middlebury. To advance the falls basin and riverwalk projects, Bill signed on Vergennes resident of 12 years Mike Winslow, who is a staff scientist at the Lake Champlain Committee. For the transportation, pedestrian and parking work, Bill selected long-time Vergennes resident and avid bicyclist, Greg Edwards, as chair.
While we’re ready to help as needed, VCRD is now at the end of our lead role in the Community Visit process in Vergennes. This is a tremendous community and, with the leadership that has stepped up, we know we’re leaving the work ahead in very capable hands. It’s such an honor to work with so many dedicated people and we commend them for all they do as volunteers to make Vergennes the best little city anywhere!