ENOSBURG FALLS — About two-dozen residents planned village improvements in the Enosburg Falls High School library Thursday night.
This was not an idle discussion. The SE Group, the consulting firm designing a downtown revitalization plan for the town and village, organized and recorded the discussion. Comments made in the library last night will directly influence how the SE Group shapes its so-called “Vital Village” plan, a verbal and visual blueprint for Enosburgh’s future.
Last night was the project’s largest public input session so far.
SE Group representatives constantly stress that the plan has to be built on the community’s desires, that it will take community passion to translate the plan into actions. Those in attendance were clearly the passionate community members, familiar faces from the Enosburgh Initiative, village boards, town boards, the local recreation committee, the community’s dependable volunteers.
After an update from Drew Pollak-Bruce, an SE Group planner, attendees split into four discussion groups, discussing improving Enosburgh’s recreation and tourism, branding and identity, streetscapes and transportation and mobility.
The Messenger wandered between the discussion tables, listening in.
Discussing a symbol for Enosburgh, like Swanton’s swans: “If it wasn’t the cow, what would it be?” “It’s the falls.”
Regarding how to market the village, written on a large note sheet: “It has everything, despite size.”
Overheard at several tables, variations on: “It seems like a really cool idea. I never thought of that.”
Attendees wondered about a common theme for Enosburgh architecture. Maybe its “beautiful brick buildings.”
They talked about a lack of signage advertising the Brownway River Trail, and about a lack of location information in signs advertising the June Dairy Festival.
Pollak-Bruce explained what residents have told consultants so far, by way of a digital survey that collected more than 115 responses, about 30 people who stopped by the SE Group’s booth during September’s Harvest Festival and about 75 responses consultants gathered amid the Enosburgh Eats festival in October.
Respondents have overwhelmingly said they want economic development, a vibrant village center and more business in Enosburg Falls. Secondarily, respondents prioritized increasing local recreation opportunities and tourism and creating a brand identity for the village.
Respondents’ description of their current experience in Enosburgh, Pollak-Bruce said, “maybe aren’t the best [words] you want to read” — words like “boring” and “dull.” Others were positive: “quaint,” “small,” “cozy.”
Respondents described their desired future for Enosburgh with upbeat action words: “active,” “inclusive,” “destination.”
What of Enosburgh should be maintained? Respondents said parks, its historic aspects, “its friendliness.”
What should be changed? “Shopping,” “retail,” “more restaurants.”
What would encourage visitors to stop in Enosburg Falls? “That it has a small-town feel,” that it’s authentic. Pollak-Bruce offered his own contribution.
“You know that cow-flop bingo out there?” Pollak-Bruce said, referring to the June Dairy Days activity in which the village’s Main Street acts as a bingo board and a bovine’s bowel movements as, well, the rest of the game. “That doesn’t happen in every small town. That is really unique to Enosburgh, and it’s those sort of things that make it a different, unique place.”
Pollak-Bruce said the central question is “What can we do to make Enosburgh a place to stop, not a place to drive through as you’re going somewhere else.”
Visit enosburghvitalvillage.org for further information about the project, including a timeline, input gathered so far and visual illustrations of areas in need of improvement, according to public input.
A Vermont Agency of Transportation and Agency of Commerce and Community Development grant funded the planning project. Northwest Regional Planning Commission planner Greta Brunswick is the project manager.
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