Greensboro Bend Revitalization Initiative Update

From: Dan Predpall, Chair of the Bend Revitalization Initiative Steering Committee

This letter provides an update on the Bend Revitalization Initiative (BRI) activities.

The Bend Revitalization Initiative (BRI) was created in April, 2018 in response to concerns voiced by Bend residents at the March Town Meeting. A visioning process was conducted with about 25 Bend and other Greensboro residents. This led to the following BRI goals:

  • Support home improvement in the Bend and attract new housing stock (rentals or homes for sale)
  • Enhance the physical appearance of the Bend
  • Increase opportunities for community interaction
  • Attract economic development to the Bend and provide jobs
  • Seek funding for the above initiatives

The BRI is composed of Greensboro community members interesting in revitalizing the Bend. Our group includes longtime residents of the Bend, new residents, business owners, retirees, and young parents.” We have a website at www.thebendvt.org . This website will be used to keep the public up to date on Bend activities. If you have ideas about how we can improve it, let us know!

We are submitting a grant application to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and VTrans. The grant is called Better Connections. The grant focuses on East Hardwick, Greensboro Bend, and the rail trail and Lamoille River that connect these small villages.

BRI is looking for ways to stimulate the economy of the Bend. One possible way is to complete the rail trail. The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail between Morrisville and Cambridge sees about 15,000 users annually. Even if we assume 10,000 users or so, that is a large number. Users will spend money at trailheads. The impact on a small village like the Bend could be significant.

So, I called Ken Brown at VAST, who oversees the construction of the rail trail. I asked him when we could expect the rail trail in the Bend. He said up to 15 years. He also mentioned that Hardwick was working to build out the trail themselves. I met with Eric Remick, Chair of the Hardwick Selectboard. Also, I talked to Cheryl Michaels, who started the East Hardwick Neighborhood Organization, similar to our BRI. In sum, it made sense for East Hardwick and the Bend to work together towards completing the rail trail between the villages.

The “planning grant” would include the following goals/activities, which would occur over an 18-month period from June 2019 to December 2020:

  • The overall goal is to stimulate economic activity in Greensboro Bend and East Hardwick.
  • The “project area” is the corridor that includes East Hardwick, the Bend, Route 16, the rail trail, and the Lamoille River. This is a three-mile corridor between the villages.
  • Planning for completion of the rail trail between East Hardwick and the Bend. For example, look for wetlands issues, impacts on the river, and crossings of State Route 16.
  • Examine the potential to develop ancillary facilities in East Hardwick and the Bend such as a café, kiosks, rest areas, parking areas, rest rooms, other retail, etc. The idea is to capture revenue from trail users.
  • Plan for streetscape improvements in East Hardwick and the Bend. This could include signage, landscaping, façade improvements, bike lanes, safe street crossings, traffic calming devices, and so on. The idea is to improve the appearance of the villages, and encourage trail users and other visitors and residents to spend more time in the villages.
  • There are nutrient inflows to the Lamoille River between East Hardwick and the Bend. Evaluate this issue and plan for buffer plantings of trees and shrubs along the river. This would also beautify the river as well as improving water quality.
  • Finally, a goal of the grant is to integrate the Hardwick trails system and Greensboro trails system to the rail trail. In other words, connect all the trails.
  • A public engagement program is part of the grant. Residents of both villages will get together to determine what changes they want to see, as related to the goals of this grant. A website will show the activities of the grant work.

Yes, this is an aggressive plan. However, it is just “Step 1”, to create a plan for action. The real goal here, “Step 2”, is to implement the plan, including completing the rail trail between East Hardwick and Greensboro Bend. This will bring significant benefits to these villages. This planning grant will set the stage for further progress. 

Note that the Council for Rural Development will hold a Community Visit Program in Greensboro later this year. This program is a community-building process, and will receive help from many state agencies. This will provide us with an additional opportunity to move forward.

Also, the Northern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) will perform a “trailhead study” along the rail trail between St Johnsbury and Hardwick. This study will help us as well.

So, the timing is good to get this Better Connections grant. It is very competitive, but we get extra points for working with two municipalities. If we are successful, we will need your help!

On another matter, you may have seen postings in town or on the town website regarding formation of a Housing Committee. The goal of this committee is to evaluate how Greensboro can bring moderately-priced housing to Greensboro. If you would like to participate, send a note to zoning@greensborovt.org.

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