Downtown Wilmington. (Chris Mays/Reformer file photo)
Downtown Wilmington. (Chris Mays/Reformer file photo)
Monday May 27, 2013

WILMINGTON -- A downtown village master plan is currently under the scope of the Conway School of Landscape Design.

The mission of its studies are to "explore, develop and practice and teach a design of the land that is ecologically and socially sustainable."

"They were recommended to us by the Windham Regional Commission," said Wilmington Economic and Community Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk. "It was quite a process to get them here because they are busy. A lot of towns ask for their assistance. We wrote a letter to the school and they said, 'Yes, this sounds like what we want to do.'" On May 14, Kim Smith and Renee LaGue asked for feedback and ideas at the Wilmington Town Offices. The underlying goals of the school's work are community development, economic revitalization and ecological well-being, they said.

"The master plan is to integrate these three," said Smith. "We've done a number of analyses on the area. Most of them are specific to what we're looking for your feedback on."

The Conway School is to present the town with a design plan in June, which Havreluk said Wilmington will hopefully use to revitalize the community.

The ideas that Smith and LaGue mentioned include creating an inviting pedestrianfriendly downtown, revitalizing public green spaces, evaluating traffic calming options and parking signs as well as mitigating storm water.

One of the main points had been about the downtown village being in a flood plain, which has made several of the town's businesses victims during storms such as Tropical Storm Irene and similar floods during 1938 and the 1970s.

There are ways to "mitigate smaller storms through re-creation of wetlands and rain gardens," stated a PowerPoint slide.

"A pinch point at the bridge," which makes the area tight for both vehicles and pedestrians, was a another area that the Conway School wanted to concentrate on improving.

"The fact is that it creates an opportunity for commerce and for people to stop in the stores," said Smith. "It also causes a problem for pedestrians crossing the street where the trucks may be really loud. The Conway School representatives said there are studies being conducted towards finding more green spaces to be used as parks downtown and some sidewalks in the village are a bit too narrow, while others are exposed.

After a short presentation, attendees were given a handout and asked to write down their vision for the village center. It included a map, where people marked areas in the village that they frequently walked or didn't walk through.

One person mentioned that there was some interest from residents in getting a country store or deli in the downtown village. He likened it to the Putney General Store.

"It tends to centralize people, develop camaraderies," he said. "The place would be open for long hours, (where people can) talk and socialize. It's a great thing to be able to go to a bakery and deli and get those amenities."

Many attendees believed that Memorial Hall was being under utilized. One mentioned that the building should be able to be compared to the theaters in Bellows Falls and Keene, N.H.

Cliff Duncan said that a store could be opened and run like a coop with different vendors and various products.

"In this day and age of cooperatives, you may be able to engage people," he said. "They'd bring things. It'd be more community based."

Nicki Steel told the Conway School representatives that she and others would like to see more outdoor and public spaces for events as well as a coffee shop or places to meet and eat.

Another Conway School meeting in Wilmington will be held in early June.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.