“The Mad River Valley is an innovative, vibrant, connected and caring community honoring its past, celebrating its landscape and actively pursuing its potential” (MRV Vision Statement).
But what makes a physical space into a place that people identify with, value, enjoy, and interact in?
There are many elements that work in tandem to create and sustain community in the MRV, and the MRVPD provides guidance, resources, and energy to assist our localities as they define and create the place in which they want to live and engage.
Tropical Storm Irene of 2011 impacted countless Vermont communities, causing severe damage and losses in many areas, including the Mad River Valley. One particularly affected site was Bridge Street in Waitsfield, adjacent to the historic “Big Eddy” Covered Bridge, the oldest covered bridge in operation in Vermont. In August 2011, the surge lifted the historic Waitsfield Barbershop from its foundation and drove it into the neighboring building, destroying the barbershop and leaving scars along the riverbank.
However, like many Vermont communities, the people of the Mad River Valley did not succumb to the devastation. Instead, they came together and strengthened their ties, assisting each other long after the waters had receded. From the challenges presented by this natural disaster emerged an opportunity to rethink the community’s values and needs, and re-envision this space in its new form.
The MRVPD assisted Waitsfield in commissioning a Vermont Downtown Action Team (VDAT) Report in 2013 to aid the community in this visioning process, and from this emerged a plan for a “pocket park” at the site of the former barbershop. Through a public engagement process, the plans for this community asset were revised and MRVPD and its partners moved to seek grant funding.
In collaboration with the town, MRVPD applied for and received $180,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery II funding, and the 10% municipal match was approved at the 2014 Waitsfield Town Meeting.
Paying homage to the history of the site, the community decided to rename the park, Lovett Park, after the barber Frank Lovett who presided over the historic business alongside the river. On August 23, 2017, the ribbon was cut to reveal the new “floodable” Lovett Park and an engaging information kiosk. Its flood-ready design (see additional concept photos and project presentation here) enhanced economic and flood resilience of the Village Center by increasing accessibility to the river and its environs, enhancing viewing of the river and historic covered bridge, and protecting the riparian area from erosion.
This project also received two awards recognizing achievement of outstanding community planning within the state: The 2014 Project of the Year Award by the Vermont Planners Association (VPA) as well as the 2014 Vermont Public Places Award, which "recognizes special public spaces, the corridors that connect them, or networks of public spaces which have been defined or enriched by planning or design, as well as regulations that promote positive, public uses and benefits" (VT Urban & Community Forestry, 2019).
Warren Main Street Improvement Project:
In 2013 the MRVPD helped the Town of Waitsfield commission an analysis and strategic report from the Vermont Downtown Action Team (VDAT). This group utilized community input throughout their planning process to deliver recommendations and an implementation strategy for enhancing well-being, improving physical appearance and function of the Town, and promoting economic development. See the 2014 Warren VDAT Report here.
Some of the concepts included: Streetscape enhancements to Main Street in Warren Village, traffic calming on Main Street, enhancements to the bridge across Freeman’s Brook, creation of a Town Green, improvements to Warren Store, enhancing river connections, and housing infill within the Village core.
The Town of Warren has committed to pursuing these goals and, as of 2019, has accomplished Main Street and bridge improvements, traffic calming through alternative paving strategies, and preparation of a space for a Town Green.
The photos below show the initial 2013 concepts for streetscape improvements and infill on Main Street in Warren Village. (Source: Warren VDAT Report, 2014).
Following the VDAT Report, MRVPD applied for and received $275,000 of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery II (CDBG DR) funding to implement the report's recommendations. Community enhancements included laying textured pavement in parking areas and part of the roadway to calm traffic and create a pedestrian-friendly environment. Trees were also planted and bollards were installed to enhance the streetscape and provide further traffic calming. These efforts have enhanced the landscape and Village gateway while improving safety, accessibility, and comfort to walkers, bicyclists, and other multimodal users.
Additional projects from the VDAT Report recommendations are currently in progress in Warren.
Visit the Projects for Public Spaces website to learn more about how placemaking takes shape across the nation and the world.