The Vermont Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has awarded Rutland Town a 2021 municipal planning grant (MPG) to develop plans for a pocket park near Mead Falls in Center Rutland (at Old Falls Road off Bus. 4.)
The grant will be used to survey and design walkways, a scenic overlook of the falls, parking and picnic areas, and access to fishing and kayaking opportunities on Otter Creek. It also will incorporate signage and links to the area’s rich historical past. The town will contribute $1,500 as a match to the $13,500 state grant. The Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) will administer the grant.
The two-acre site along Otter Creek and Business Route 4 is a hidden gem ideal for a pocket park due to its scenic location and its numerous historical and cultural links to early Rutland.
Green Mountain Power, which owns most of the site, is in a re-licensing process and is eager to include public uses of the property. Improved access to the falls for recreation has been identified as a priority in Smart Growth and corridor improvement studies jointly undertaken by the Town of Rutland and West Rutland.
Select Board Chair Mary Ashcroft congratulated the Rutland Town Planning Commission, particularly Chair Barbara Noyes Pulling and Mary Beth Poli, for researching and writing the successful grant application. She thanked DHCD for the grant and expressed the town’s appreciation to Otter Creek Engineering for its pro bono design work.
Ed Bove, executive director of RRPC, added: “This endeavor will not only produce a new recreational resource for the town and region, it will contribute to our regional effort to acknowledge and honor the indigenous people that lived here and the history embedded in this specific location and throughout the region.”
In letters of support for the pocket park, local historians and historical groups cited the area’s remarkable importance.
James A. Rowe, Jr, Barry E. Griffith, and Dale A. Christie, officers of the Crown Point Road Association, wrote: “We know that Rutland’s first European inhabitant James Mead settled in this area, and the old military road (Crown Point Road) crossed Otter Creek here during the American Revolution. Fort Ranger, the headquarters of the Vermont militia, protected the site in 1778. As lovers of Vermont history, we know the area has additional historical significance on account of its use in the centuries since the Revolution. Indeed, for centuries prior as well, as a well-known portage and resting place for the Native Americans who lived here before Europeans arrived.”
Elaine Purdy, local historian and past-president of the Rutland Historical Society and the Crown Point Road Association wrote: “I had a role in the placing of the Vermont Historical Site Marker at [Mead’s Falls] and ever since then have advocated for some beautification of the site—a place where visitors could safely pull off the road, view the majestic falls, and appreciate the significance of this area in the military and industrial history of our country and our state.”
Barbara Giffin, Rutland Historical Society president and past regent of the Ann Story Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) wrote: “Rutland Historical Society recognizes that area’s significance in Vermont’s history. We are not only delighted to be a party to this effort, we are also grateful for Rutland Town’s vision.”
The MPG program encourages and supports planning and revitalization for local municipalities in Vermont that build strong communities and improve Vermont’s quality of life. Since 1998, the program has provided approximately $13 million to 237 cities and towns.