Bennington returns to community plan created in 2012 | Local News
BENNINGTON – The board of directors is educating residents on how the town has been successful in responding to the multiple initiatives launched after a Vermont Council on Rural Development community visit program in 2012. And in many cases, members of the board, the progress over the past decade is clearly visible, somewhat astonishing and worthy of celebration.
“It’s really great to look at where we were 10 years ago, and how that kind of became the DNA of the community,” President Jeannie Jenkins said in a presentation Monday on the goals identified. in the spring of 2012. “For all of us, these things were important.
“It really came from the community as a whole,” said director of community development Shannon Barsotti, who presented a slide show on some of the initiatives during the meeting.
“It feels like it was a collaboration of a great community group, who got together and said we want to see changes and we love this community,” Jenkins said. “It is simply remarkable what has been accomplished.”
Further progress updates for the public are expected at upcoming Board meetings.
The 50 page report published in June 2012 by the Council on Rural Development indicates that about 400 people in total participated in the process, which began with a community kick-off meeting in March.
This session was followed by a community meeting to vote on project priorities and narrow down 22 residents’ suggestions for improving Bennington into four broad categories. These categories were:
• Advance a community center in Bennington and improve the recreation center.
• Develop a vision statement for Bennington and promote community communications and the city’s positive image.
• Collaborate to fight against poverty and create a working group on poverty.
• Make downtown Bennington a destination and build a new green town of Bennington.
After the goals were chosen through a voting process in April 2012, around 100 people volunteered to be part of the working groups to start working on implementation plans and strategies.
The working groups worked with VCRD staff and resource persons among state officials, heads of organizations and businesses, and other experts in the areas addressed by the citizen groups. .
Focusing on the goals of improving the city’s image and self-image and making the downtown area a destination, Monday’s presentation made reference to the redevelopment of Putnam Block and to d ‘other developments and the opening of new businesses in the city center in recent years.
The website itself is expected to be rebuilt and updated over the next year.
Infrastructure projects were also noted. Especially over the past year, these have improved Bennington’s roads, streets, and cycle / walking paths in town, as well as the town’s image and self-esteem, officials said.
In addition, two new parks have been established downtown near Four Corners – Pocket Park on West Main Street and the SplashPad and Thomson Family Stage on North Street.
This year, the city also created the position of communications coordinator and hired former Chamber of Commerce president Jonah Spivak for the position.
And the locals came together this year to create a vision statement for Bennington, which is now read at the start of board meetings.
Board member Jeanne Conner said it should be noted that the city’s progress “has taken 10 years, and without patience and persistence these things would not have happened. We are all so grateful.
Thinking back to the VLCD process and the working group meetings, Bruce Lee-Clark said he thought “a lot of this wasn’t even imaginable 10 years ago. I’m really delighted with how what almost seemed like empty dreams 10 years ago came to fruition. We ourselves – the whole community – have to thank for this. “
The VCRD’s report on the Bennington Community Visiting Program details the many specific suggestions from townspeople and other stakeholders offered in early meetings, many of which were incorporated into the four broader categories.
Although this was not the subject of Monday’s presentation, the town’s recreation center is now called the Bennington Community Center, after a 3.5 building renovation and expansion project million dollars was undertaken by the city in cooperation with United Counseling Service and the local Head Start program. , which received a grant for the works.
Since 2018, the leisure center has also been managed by the Berkshire Family YMCA under a contract with the city. The organization is credited by the Select Board for expanding programs for youth and adults.
Additionally, the city plans to work with developer Christopher Gilbert, who has purchased the historic Bennington High School building on Main Street and is renovating the structure for multiple uses.
The use of the old gymnasium and basketball court for the recreation center programs is being explored and the use of another space in the building for the programs for the elderly.