The Guilford Central School (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The Guilford Central School (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)

GUILFORD -- For anyone interested in the future of Guilford, Tuesday is the day to talk about it.

The public is invited to a "community visit day" organized by the Vermont Council on Rural Development as the nonprofit kicks off a months-long process designed to set goals for Guilford and figure out how to reach them.

While the Montpelier-based organization is coordinating that process, officials said it won't work without lots of local participation.

"The community visit will allow Guilford community members to build on their assets, prioritize their ideas and connect with experts and resources from around Vermont to get things done," said Paul Costello, the council's executive director.

Vermont Council on Rural Development has worked in more than 60 communities to "bring residents together to share ideas around issues of concern and to move toward common solutions," administrators said.

The council works with two towns annually. Manchester came first in 2013 and will now be followed by Guilford.

Anne Rider, a Guilford Selectboard member, said a resident came up with the idea initially. The Selectboard eventually met with Costello.

"We felt like, what a great opportunity," Rider said. "You really come out of this whole process with a plan."

That plan can cover a wide variety of topics related to Guilford's future. That is clear by surveying the subjects covered at forums scheduled for Tuesday:

-- 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Broad Brook Grange: Quality of life for seniors (first floor); Guilford parks, trails and outdoor recreation (second floor).

-- 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Broad Brook Grange: Community buildings (first floor); agriculture and natural-resource economy (second floor).

-- 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Guilford Central School: Youth and recreation; supporting the Guilford economy.

The sessions are sandwiched around a free community dinner scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the school.

Administrators laid the groundwork for those meetings during previous trips to Guilford, said Margaret Gibson McCoy, a council spokeswoman.

"We try to reach a broad spectrum of voices by finding people in town who are representative of various groups," she said. "They come up with the topics."

That is indicative of the program's grass-roots emphasis.

"It's all about local leadership," Costello said in a prepared statement. "We know that the best decisions are made locally, and that local leadership and the participation of residents is the real key to progress.

"But we also know that local efforts sometimes need the assistance of state or federal resources to be completed," he added.

That's where the council's "visiting team" comes in. Comprised of federal and state officials as well as business and nonprofit administrators, the team will participate in Tuesday's meetings.

Along with Costello, members include Bob Allen, Windham Foundation; Greg Brown, Vermont Council on Rural Development board; Paul Bruhn, Preservation Trust of Vermont; Sharon Combes-Farr, Vermont Council on Rural Development digital economy project; Lucy Leriche, Vermont Agency of Commerce; Jenny Nelson, office of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; and Patricia Moulton Powden, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.

Also on the team are Doug Racine, Vermont Agency of Human Services; Jill Remick, Vermont Agency of Education; Tom Roberts, Vermont Community Foundation; Fred Schmidt, University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies; and John Tracy, office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.

The community visit begins a three-month planning process. At a meeting next month, Guilford residents will consider a more-focused plan based on feedback from Tuesday's forums.

"We'll bring back a list of 20 to 25 action ideas that we heard through the different sessions, and we'll frame them in positive statements that folks in town can choose to work on," McCoy said.

More information is available at www.vtrural.org.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.