On August 30, 2023

State leaders tour flood damage in Killington, Mission Farm

 

By Katy Savage

When rain hit Killington in early July and mud slid across the road, Lisa Ransom and her husband scurried with heavy equipment to save the 1895 Mission Farm church from flooding.

Ransom, the vicar of the church, and her husband dug a ditch around the building as rain came down “like a waterfall.”

While they saved the building, the dirt-floor basement of the church filled with about 8 inches of water and the septic system of the 1816 guesthouse across the street washed out.   “The amount of water coming down the back hillside was tremendous,” Ransom said.

The damages were projected to cost nearly $20,000.  “The whole thing was a little scary,” said Ransom. 

She, like many others, are preparing for the future, explaining, “We know this will happen again.” 

Eleven state and local officials from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, Vermont Council on Rutland Development, Division of Historic Preservation, Rutland Regional Planning Commission and other organizations visited Rutland and Killington Friday, Aug. 25 to discuss how to save historic buildings from future floods. 

“In many towns and businesses the buildings are in a downtown where they are susceptible to flooding,” said Lyle Jepson, the executive director of the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region. “The purpose was to encourage state and leaders to lobby for more federal funding.”

The officials stopped at the Killington Welcome Center and discussed future infrastructure needs in the wake of climate change.

“It’s going to be more impactful and more of a recurrence,” Town Manager Michael Ramsey said, of the need to prepare for future weather events.

The officials then toured damage at Mission Farm, which is one of the area’s oldest structures. 

They sat on a newly-built stone amphitheater as Ransom shared her vision for the future of the property. 

“The purpose of this land was always for it to be a resource for the community,” Ransom told the state officials.

The small congregation hasn’t exceeded 10 people in the last 100 years.

“I have no illusion that we’re going to have a big church. That is not the goal,” Ransom said. “The goal of all this is to bring the community together.” 

Ransom, who was born in Colorado, moved to Killington with her husband from Waterbury in 2020 where they operated Grow Compost, a food waste composting business. 

Ransom views the small amphitheater, called an odeon, as the epicenter of future community involvement. It’s made of stone and designed to accommodate 10 participants close-up or a couple dozen in the six levels of the amphitheater and many more spread out on the surrounding grass.

Ransom also plans to turn a former bakery on the site into a community kitchen for use by entrepreneurs, groups and nonprofits. She wants to focus on food, music, conservation, connection, and justice issues. 

“You already have things going,” said Ben Doyle, the executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, adding that he leads preservation retreats to think of reuses for churches.

Ransom said balancing the church’s religious ties with fundraising is a challenge. “Some people aren’t comfortable giving to a religious organization, but also some of my funders feel it’s an extra bit of security to have it be owned by the Episcopal church,” she told the group. 

Last Sunday was Ransom’s first large event at the church, the Meadows & Mountains Festival, where over 300 people gathered and local musicians played at the odeon.

“It’s great to be able to share the story of this place with people who value the history and the beauty of it,” Ransom said in a phone interview after the event.

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