Six Vermont communities are receiving $4,000 each in grant funds from AARP Vermont to initiate or enhance winter placemaking demonstration projects. The projects focus on creating or reinventing public spaces to improve safety, accessibility, and overall appeal on a temporary or permanent basis. Proposals from Burlington, Rutland, White River Junction, Mendon, Putney, and Swanton were selected from dozens of applications for the initiative. This is the sixth year of AARP Vermont’s Placemaking Grant Program, which aims to spearhead demonstration project efforts that will help build momentum for long-term livability improvements with an emphasis on the needs of adults aged 50 and over.
Vermont’s cold and dark winter months pose several challenges for residents across the state, one of which is social isolation. The Winter Placemaking Grant Program focuses on helping communities embrace the winter months by reinventing public spaces to encourage outdoor activities and social engagement. The grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for people of all ages.
“This is an opportunity for six Vermont communities to take quick actions that can lead to a critical spark for longer-term progress,” explained Kelly Stoddard Poor of AARP Vermont. “We know that simple modifications can powerfully alter the health, economic, social, and ecological value of a community,” she said, and “when community members and local officials can see or experience a new or revitalized space, they are better able to understand what is possible and how it can improve their community. Projects like these have led to exciting new improvements in communities across the state and country.”
This year’s recipients are:
Burlington: Old East End Neighborhood Coalition will hold their annual Winterlude event at Schmanska park with free and accessible outdoor recreational activities for all ages focused on reducing isolation. OEENC will also enhance the neighborhood park features with additional lighting, winter lanterns, trail access and a warming hut focused on the needs of the 50+ community.
Rutland: Come Alive Outside will build and manage two outdoor gear libraries and monthly activities for older Vermonters at the Godnick Adult Day Center and in downtown Rutland. The organization will also work to provide three monthly free outdoor winter activities for older adults focused on using the winter gear available to access the outdoors during the winter.
White River Junction: CraftStudies will expand access to hands-on learning experiences for older adults by providing six weekly ceramic classes. They will also host three Artist Talks with teaching artists over the age of 50, and will give a lunchtime artist talk at Bugbee Senior Center about their craft, artistic process, and creative practice. These talks will be open and free to the entire community.
Mendon: The Town of Mendon will create a ‘Snowshoe Saturday’ program by providing five snowshoe lessons and activities for older adults. The Town will also work to install two ADA accessible picnic tables and will install wayfinding signs highlighting the access to the trails.
Putney: Next Stage Arts will create an engaging outdoor art exhibition for the 50+ community on the maintained Putney Forest trails. The group will also hold walks and/or snowshoes of the exhibit. A warming shelter with hot drinks and snacks will be available for participants.
Swanton: The Swanton Recreation Commission will hold a week-long winter program, “Winter Escapades,” leading up to Town Meeting Day for older adults and community members to engage in winter recreation and activities. The commission will also install new seating options to benefit older adults participating in recreational activities in the community.
In support of these projects, AARP Vermont will provide technical assistance and publicity strategy, and assist project leaders in engaging with other local, regional or state partner organizations that can contribute to their success.
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