Numerous parcels of land along the White River were purchased by towns through the FEMA “buy-out” process after the devastation in 2011 caused by Tropical Storm Irene. Seven of these sites were evaluated for public access improvement potential, and with support of the 2014 Watershed Grant program, a series of public meetings were held to provide local input and participation in the design of the riverside parks. Watershed Grant funds, awarded by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, were used by the Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) to support the facilitation of the public meetings at the seven sites, and to produce a web-based map of the sites and proposed improvement for public viewing.
Five towns participated in the project: Granville, Rochester, Pittsfield, Bethel, and Royalton. Each town provided a representative (typically a selectboard or planning commission member) to represent the town’s interests, and to act as a liaison between the project and the town’s government.
Coincident with the award of the Watershed Grant to VRC, the Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission made funds available to hire a landscape architecture firm to develop site plans for each of the seven project sites. The Watershed Grant provided funding for a coordinator to work with each of the six towns in the selection and engagement of the landscape architecture firm. The coordinator also orchestrated the individual public meetings, compiled meeting notes and coordinated the development of the final site plans for the seven projects.
Part of the Watershed Grant involved developing cost estimates for the work required to develop the seven sites. An additional outcome of the Watershed Grant is a web-based map showing the locations of the seven sites and linking the preliminary and final site design drawings for each site. The map, which can be seen at this link: http://arcg.is/1CVV85C can also serve as a common, publically accessible site to track the progress of the actual development of each of the sites and, if deemed appropriate, add additional information about specific sites (such as: canoe access, fishing access, swimming, etc.).
The map will be maintained and edited through the White River Partnership and/or the Vermont River Conservancy.
By encouraging citizens to access the White River for recreational purposes the White River watershed will be better understood and more fully appreciated. With such understanding, it is likely that people will be more inclined toward watershed conservation efforts that enhance their recreational experiences, such as: wildlife habitat improvement through establishment of riparian buffers, encouragement of private land conservation of river corridors, and better management of roads and other infrastructure that abut the White River to enhance the water based recreational experience. Each of the individual projects include restoration of riparian vegetation and limitations on development within the river corridor.