ENOSBURG FALLS — Early Internet proponents said an online connection would revolutionize the way we communicate. That hasn’t happened in Enosburgh.
Yet the possibility seems closer after a multi-hour meeting Saturday morning that brought representatives from almost every board and organization in broader Enosburgh together.
The respective boards met individually for an hour mid-morning, starting around 9:30 a.m., at the Enosburg Falls High School.
Board members then gathered in the school’s library at 10:30 a.m. for a meeting that continued for about two hours.
Among the boards represented: the town selectboard, the village board of trustees, the Friends of the Opera House, the historical society, the conservation commission, the food shelf, the newly formed technology innovation committee, the recreation committee, planning commission and development review board, the Enosburg Business Association, and even the Missisquoi River Basin Association.
That is not a complete list. Many of those in attendance participate in multiple boards or organizations.
But despite the diverse array of boards and organizations represented there Saturday morning, everyone, without exception, agreed they share two critical issues: one, how to communicate and coordinate to share resources, combine rather than duplicate efforts and attract the most people, and two, how to attract more, and younger, volunteers.
Some of the groups’ hope for a solution seemed fixed on the new technology committee, which meets for the first time this coming Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Enosburg Emergency Services building. The committee’s stated purpose is to advise and educate locals on technological options, discover technological resources and partner with local organizations to identify innovative ideas. That’s sure to help organizations struggling to digitally get their word out, which seemed to be most of the community represented at this meeting.
But a more likely solution seems meetings like these, which have already happened, in a slightly smaller scale, in the form of joint town-village board meetings and the Enosburgh Initiative’s regular volunteer assemblies.
Nary a person explained their group’s activities at this meeting without instant sounds of surprise, or pleasure, or praise from their fellow attendees. That was how the group reacted to the news of forthcoming bylaw amendments removing what planning commissioner and selectperson Polly Rico said were “too restrictive” rules prohibiting town residents from chicken coops, swimming pools, tool sheds and other accessory structures.
That was how the group reacted to news from Sarah Downes, chair of the conservation commission. Many attendees seemed unaware Enosburgh has a town forest until Downes explained the commission’s recent work maintaining it, and even more attendees seemed delighted to hear about a forthcoming hexagonal-roofed, three-sided kiosk near the Bridge of Flowers and Light including information on the Missisquoi River, the local ecosystem, Enosburg Falls and its people. Local construction students are building the kiosk.
Downes told the group she leaves 20-30 newly designed municipal maps at the Bridge of Flowers and Light every week for tourists, and that every week, when she returns, every last map is gone.
She also told the group that the conservation commission just allocated money to plant daffodils around the village in the spring to beautify Enosburg Falls during the rainy season, pending selectboard approval.
Attendees also seemed tickled to learn that the Enosburgh Historical Society plans to reprint its history book on the municipality, first published in 1985. The historical society plans a first run of 150-250 books, which member Matt Miner said the society expects to “move quickly,” possibly resulting in a second printing. The books will be available around the village, as well as directly from the historical society.
The meeting went a distance toward connecting the various organizations’ efforts. But the lingering issue was volunteers and attendance at each group’s functions.
The Friends of the Opera House, represented by board members Dinny Hawksworth and Heather Wilson, said the opera house is looking for new and, ideally, younger board members. They said the opera house’s focus moving forward is more involvement from younger people.
And there seems to be no shortage of younger people in Enosburgh. Rico also serves on the school board; she told those in attendance the school population has stayed the same, at or over capacity, despite the statewide trend of declining school populations, and Rico said this year’s elementary class even increased by 50 kids.
One question group members posed was how to reach those kids. The Initiative’s ideas led some volunteers to reach out and involve kids in efforts like creating historical markers for the village, an effort volunteer and lifelong educator Ward Heneveld is facilitating. And Initiative volunteer Jim Cameron, an Enosburg Falls Economic Development Corporation (EFEDC) board member, said the EFEDC has opened two board positions to local high school juniors. Cameron said he’s actively speaking with potential student board members now. The students will have active voting roles on the board, same as any other member, providing a younger influence and vision for the board overseeing the local industrial park.
But the real question is how to reach a broader range of kids and do so consistently. Group members proposed announcements in school newsletters or a heightened social media presence. Cameron said he’s been told most middle school kids don’t use Facebook, further complicating the outreach problem.
Cameron offered a few experience-based solutions. He said general invitations don’t work as well as directly asking people to attend. “Everyone has five things going on at different times,” Cameron said. “They don’t need another one.” He also said running joint meetings, or even adjacent meetings, one right after the other, seems a good way to bring more people in.
As a last resort, when Enosburg Historical Society members lamented that anyone who participates in the society has hair the color of their own, white, Cameron suggested organizing an Enosburgh-wide fundraiser.
“We can all dye our hair,” he said.
Subscribe to the Messenger.