City council sets priorities for downtown and basin areas

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council at last Tuesday’s meeting reviewed potential next steps outlined by the task force charged with creating the Vergennes Downtown-Basin Master Plan.
Mayor Bill Benton had asked group members individually to respond to him with what they thought should be the city’s highest priorities to improve the city’s downtown and basin areas for residents’ use and to attract and serve visitors. He presented their answers in a memo to the council.
According to Benton’s memo, about 10 members of the task force responded — after being asked to be mindful of financial feasibility, recreational and economic impact, and sustainable maintenance — that city officials should focus on:
•  Creating and marking an identity and/or brand. Benton said on Wednesday he and the council thought the Vergennes Partnership could take on this task.
•  Working on a consistent, low-maintenance landscaping approach.
•  Creating a “wayfinding and signage plan” including kiosks and directories to help visitors find the basin from downtown, and vice versa.
•  Making recreation improvements, such as bike lanes, trail signs and upgraded park entrance, and better trail upkeep.
A secondary list included developing a play area in Falls Park, making improvements to the Main Street and Macdonough Drive intersection, and adding pedestrian traffic signals at some intersections.
Benton said although members responded individually, “The consensus was very strongly in favor of the priorities I put in that memo.”
Major efforts will probably await grant support, Benton said, but some money remains in a Green Mountain Power fund dedicated to improvements to the basin area that could be used for some of the less expensive projects, such as signs and trail work.
Doing so, would “show people we’re serious” about making improvements. Benton said he will come up with more specifics for an upcoming council meeting and “start a more detailed discussion” about which projects should be targeted first.

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