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City Council backs pollinator habitat

VERGENNES — The Falls Park area in Vergennes by 2023 will have half an acre devoted to providing a friendly habitat for bees and other pollinators, and by two or three years later could have a dog park nearby.

At its April 26 meeting, the Vergennes City Council unanimously supported a “Pollinator Habitat” proposal put forth by Bee The Change, a Vermont nonprofit dedicated to preserving honeybees and bumblebees, often with plantings around solar arrays.

The Vergennes Parks and Recreation Committee, represented by member Erin Wolcott, recommended the council dedicate, to pollinator habitat, a half-acre of lawn near and to the left of the parking lot that serves both Falls Park and the city sewer treatment plant.

Bee The Change representative Patrick Kitchen and Wolcott told the council the nonprofit would till the half-acre sometime this year and then seed it in 2023 with pollinator-friendly flowers and plants.

Kitchen said the offer is part of a statewide program in which all Vermont towns would be offered the same arrangement on up to an acre of land. He said Bee The Change is seeking to “branch out into more educational opportunities” as well as create more habitat.

Wolcott said the half-acre in question is now little-used lawn that the public works department will now no longer have to mow, and the finished project could include paths for educational purposes. The council embraced the proposal, and Bee The Change could begin tilling at any time.

Councilors also said they’d consider a recommendation for a dog park Wolcott made on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

Essentially, the committee said it should be created in the footprint of the northerly of the two existing sewer treatment plant lagoons, which will be filled in and abandoned during the course of the upcoming sewer system overhaul. Officials expect that work to be completed by 2025 or 2026.

City Manager Ron Redmond confirmed late last week the area would be outside the scope of the rebuilt treatment plant.

Wolcott said it will be, like the pollinator habitat, close to parking, and the site has the added benefit of being already fenced on three sides. Its footprint is more than adequate, she said: When the fourth side of fencing is added, it will enclose an area 30% larger than Middlebury’s popular dog park.

Wolcott noted a March 2020 survey commissioned by the Recreation Committee showed a dog park was high on residents’ wish list.

“There’s been a lot of people in the community interested in a dog park,” she said.

After approving the pollinator habitat, the council took no action on the dog park, but Mayor Matt Chabot said councilors will take the recommendation seriously.

“It might just make perfect sense.” Chabot said.

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