The River Garden, on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
The River Garden, on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Friday April 5, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Strolling of the Heifers might have a new place to rest its udders in between parades.

The organization, which hosts the annual June stroll down Main Street, the Slow Living Expo and the agriculture business competition, wants to make a bid to take over from Building a Better Brattleboro the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.

BABB announced earlier this year that it wants to sell, or get help running, the River Garden, and the downtown development group has opened up an RFP process to solicit ideas.

On Thursday, Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director Orly Munzing said the group is putting together a proposal to take over the popular downtown property.

"The River Garden is a jewel in the crown of downtown Brattleboro. It's a great location and a great space," Munzing said. "If we are successful in becoming the designated steward of the building, it will continue to be available for all kinds of public events while allowing Strolling of the Heifers to expand our own roster of events and programs."

Strolling of the Heifers Marketing Director Martin Langeveld said the organization has not yet put together its proposal and is looking closely at the financing to determine how the arrangement might work out.

BABB has said that it will either sell the property, or possibly retain ownership while working with another group that would manage the space and ensure that enough money can be raised over the year to maintain the building.

BABB estimates that it will cost about $49,000, at a minimum, just to keep up on loan payments, insurance, utilities and maintenance.

RFPs are being accepted until April 30 and BABB will consider them during the first two weeks in May.

Finalists will be asked to make a short presentation to a selection committee during the last few weeks of May and the winning bid will be announced during the week of June 3, just before the Strolling of the Heifers weekend.

Langeveld said Strolling of the Heifers is considering having its office at the River Garden, as well as maybe putting in a kitchen.

If Strolling of the Heifers is successful in winning the bid, Munzing said the group would host events throughout the year to further its mission to support local agriculture by hosting food tastings and dinners, lectures, concerts and classes.

Strolling of the Heifers has a long history of working with BABB and with the River Garden.

The first parade in 2002 operated under the non-profit umbrella of Building a Better Brattleboro and the River Garden has been the site for art shows and presentations during the parade weekend.

Strolling of the Heifers has also worked with Vermont Technical College in expanding the annual agriculture business competition across the state and Munzing says the two groups might be able to use the River Garden as VTech and Community College of Vermont move into the Brooks House across the street from the River Garden.

Munzing also stressed that Strolling of the Heifers would continue keeping the River Garden open to the public, which would include hosting the winter farmers' market.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.