33 people attended a public meeting on Thursday, August 7 at the Bethel Town Hall to discuss improvements to 4 town-owned buyout properties.
15 Miller Drive, 251 Marsh Meadow Road, 132 Spring Hollow Road, and 2811 Gilead Brook Road were substantially-damaged during Irene. The town received FEMA and matching funds to purchase the properties and to remove all remaining structures and debris. The White River Partnership (WRP), Vermont River Conservancy, and Bethel Conservation Commission hosted the community meeting to discuss if and how the town might improve public use at the 4 sites.
After presentations from WRP Executive Director Mary Russ about the buyout sites in Bethel and from Redstart Forestry’s Dan ‘Rudi’ Ruddell about the current physical condition of the river in Bethel, attendees walked to the Marsh Meadow Road buyout site in the village. The 5-acre parcel is adjacent to the Bethel Mills property, and has significant frontage along the Third Branch.
“Keeping in mind that the Marsh Meadow Road site is likely to flood in the future, we discussed opportunities to improve both river health and primitive recreation,” said Mary Russ. “Ideas included stabilizing the eroding streambank at the north end of the property using large wood instead of rock; restoring native trees and shrubs along the riverbank; and developing a walking trail around the perimeter.” Improvements at the Marsh Meadow Road site must be approved by FEMA and by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, which conserved the property to ensure public access and river health.
During the feedback session that followed the site visit, there was general consensus about making minimal public investments in Bethel buyout properties. Attendees did not want to see any improvements for public use at the 15 Miller Drive site; neighbors have offered to maintain the property long-term. Feedback about the 132 Spring Hollow Road and 2811 Gilead Brook Road sites included restoring native trees and shrubs along Gilead Brook and making minor improvements for fishing and hunting access.
Buyout site improvement funding is available through the Community Development Block Grant program, which is being administered by the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission.
Thanks to the Bethel Selectboard for providing meeting refreshments.