By Bronna Zlochiver, Vermont Community News editor
Recently, I asked some folks who grew up in Vernon what it was like before Vermont Yankee was built. They all said it was a friendly place, a community where everyone got along. And that is what I most want to return to: a renewal of our sense of community.
In the fall of 2014, Heather Frost searched the Internet for some information on community building, helping folks get along, cooperating, and she found the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Community Visit program. She contacted this quasi state government agency and invited the executive director to come to Vernon, which he did this past March.
Paul Costello, VCRD’s executive director, and Jenna Whitson, Community and Policy Senior Associate, met with about 40 town residents to explain the Community Visit program. They said they had been hoping to hear from Vernon and were very glad to be here. The Vernon Selectboard then wrote a letter requesting VCRD’s help for the town. On August 31, 2015, Costello returned to say that VCRD will be working with us this coming spring. All of us in Vernon will be invited to discuss our concerns and envision our future. VCRD is committed to helping us make our visions real.
I have spoken to a number of Vernon residents who all say, “I wish we had a town store again, a place where we can get together over a coffee, a gathering place.” That is my wish, too. In fact, it has already been started: Visit the Town Office Building and sit in the chairs in the lobby. Soon, a wifi café and coffee and tea bar will be there, too, courtesy of the Library and the Town Clerk’s office.
We say Vernon is the gateway Southeastern Vermont and the Green Mountains. What do we have to welcome visitors and entice them to want to stay? We have farms, cows, maple trees, and many talented, creative people. Why not have a Vernon cheese plant or a yogurt manufacturer? As far as I know, we only have one sugarhouse, why not more?
We have a couple of farm stands, why not a cooperative farm stand that sells vegetables and flowers in the summer and maple syrup in the winter? Why not some bed and breakfast places? Why not have a regular farmers’ market on the grounds of the Town Office Building?
We have a number of local artists and artisans—wreath maker Nancy Renaud; artist Donna Scully; basket maker Sandy Harris; potter Bronna Zlochiver; and jeweler, graphic designer, and painter Margaret Shipman—who are holding the first-ever Vernon Artisans Market on Sunday, December 13, 2015, from 12 noon to 4 pm. Why not similar events more often?
We have Vermont Wood Studios; people come from far away to shop there and then they go away. We have a river front area that is open to the public. Why not fix it up, develop it? Why can’t we also have a small theatre for stage productions, readings, and concerts?
We can do so much, this is a time of opportunity for us. Let us think about what Vernon will be like for future generations, 100 or more years down the road. Everyone in town will be invited to envision our future when the VCRD comes in the spring. This is your community and your ideas and your vision are important.