There’s a post-Irene expression in one Deerfield Valley town that’s posted on many of the storefronts there: "Wilmington, where amazing happens." Well, it’s true. Amazing things are happening in Wilmington and all over the valley these days.
Anybody who was in the downtown area Tuesday morning got to see an incredible feat of engineering and construction know-how as a huge crane lifted the Dot’s Restaurant building off its foundation and moved it several feet back to the adjacent parking lot. The astonishing sight generated expressions of "Oh Wow!" from the many onlookers, but it also brought promise for the future.
Last August when Tropical Storm Irene turned the otherwise peaceful Deerfield River into a raging torrent that battered the iconic restaurant, many thought Dot’s was done for and they lamented the loss of "the heart of Wilmington." But thanks to that "Vermont Strong" ethos, and a tremendous amount of community spirit and goodwill, Dot’s will return so that locals, second-homeowners and vacationers alike can once again enjoy the famous eatery that offers great food and all the charm you would expect from the Green Mountain State.
John and Patty Reagan still have a long way to go to fully rebuild and recover from the aftermath of Irene, as do all of the businesses in the Deerfield Valley. It didn’t help that this past winter was a dud in terms of snowfall and attracting those
Thanks to the planning and marketing genius of the folks at Mount Snow in Dover, however, this area could benefit from a major event that promises to attract more vacationers other times of year as well. We’re referring, of course, to last weekend’s Tough Mudder that brought thousands of visitors to southern Vermont -- visitors that needed beds to sleep in, food to eat, and souvenirs to bring back home.
Joe Kruszwski, owner of the Matterhorn Inn along Route 100, said business owners throughout Deerfield Valley were "beyond busy," posting record or near-record sales for this time of year.
Erika Holland and Ramie Demers, owners of the Valley View Saloon in Dover, said they were at capacity every night and most afternoons. "We love the mudders," Holland said.
Kruszwski said the Tough Mudder event likely will have long-lasting economic benefits.
"A lot of guests said they wouldn’t have ever come up here during the summer," he said. "There were a lot of people who were shocked to learn how much this area has to offer in the summer."
The Tough Mudder event, a 10-mile obstacle course, was first held in Vermont in the spring of 2011. It was so successful organizers decided to hold two events this year - one in May and another one this past weekend.
"Mount Snow has a lot going on during the warm season and having this event here really opens the eyes of a lot of people to that fact," David Meeker, communications manager for Mount Snow, told the Reformer.
Yet another economic shot in the arm for the valley towns came from Wednesday’s announcement that the Deerfield Valley Transit Association is getting a $3 million federal grant to build a new centralized headquarters and biodiesel-production facility in Wilmington.
The transit association had humble beginnings in 1996; the initial goal was to pull Mount Snow skiers into local shops. Known for its Holstein-themed "MOOver" buses, the service has expanded exponentially since those early days and is now the third-largest such system in the state in terms of ridership. The association gives nearly 300,000 annual rides and recently surpassed the 3 million-ride mark.
With the Federal Transit Administration grant, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the organization "finally will be able to move forward with this key transportation and economic development project to consolidate these operations in Wilmington."
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the project represents "a much-needed economic boost to an area of the state that is still recovering from some of the worst damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene."
It also will allow for future expansion of the transit service, with officials planning to purchase three additional buses to expand the fleet to 26, according to Randy Schoonmaker, general manager for the DVTA. That means more buses bringing more people into and around the Deerfield Valley to shop and spend their money. It also provides a convenience for locals with limited transportation.
"Access to public transportation in rural areas is always a challenge," said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. "Deerfield Valley Transit Association has been leading the way in meeting that challenge by finding ways to make public transportation work in rural areas. These funds will ensure more Vermonters have access to reliable public transportation."
With all of these amazing things happening, the Deerfield Valley is on its way to a full recovery from last year’s historic floods.