By Christopher Bartlett
Special To The Standard
You can’t live in Woodstock for long without becoming aware of Laurance Rockefeller’s lasting imprint on the town. And the events of the past couple of weeks underscore the fact that his enduring legacy exists beyond the highly visible Woodstock Inn and Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park.
Continuing the vision and philosophy of Laurance and Mary Rockefeller, the Woodstock Foundation and its subsidiary the Woodstock Resort Corporation last week provided a huge boost to the project to convert the East End property known as the Jungle into a community Riverfront Park. Their offer to sell a 2.1 acre parcel of land to the Village as an alternative snow dump site was true to the Rockefellers’ belief in “the integration of conservation, heritage, and human values.”
For the past nine months, Sustainable Woodstock’s East End action group has been trying to find an alternative site for the snow cleared from village streets. Recognizing that effluent from the melting snow running into the Ottauquechee River contained an accumulation of salt, oil, rubber, and other road debris, the Foundation and Resort wanted to help find a solution. But in keeping with its values, the sale is conditional upon an engineering study confirming that runoff from the proposed site will not contaminate adjacent farmland or the river.
Even after the snow dump is transferred to its new location, a great deal is required before the rundown Jungle property is transformed into a riverfront park. But the East End action group is ready to tackle the task. “The only barrier is our imagination,” said Laird Bradley, a member of the group. “But we have to do it for ourselves. Santa Claus isn’t coming to town to help.”
The group sees huge potential payoff for their efforts. They believe that transforming this industrial wasteland into an attractive community park can be the catalyst that will trigger private investment in nearby properties.
As someone in the real estate business, Bradley has tried to interest out-of-town investors in East End property many times over the past couple of decades, but with no success. “They love the riverfront aspect and the benefit of passing traffic, but the eyesore of the neighboring Jungle property makes the investment a speculative risk.”
Today, the East End is a collapsed micro-economy. Structures that once housed businesses and where people worked 30 years ago have fallen into disrepair. “The current Grand List value of buildings in the East End parcels abutting the Jungle totals $163,000 and generates $3225 in state and local taxes,” said Bradley. “Revitalized as commercial and residential space, those sites could have a value of $14,100,000 to $17,600,000 and generate tax revenues of $279,000 to $348,000.”
So what can we do? As a starter, each of us could let our representatives know that we support the project, beginning with the discussion that will take place at the Special Village Meeting on February 8. Laurance Rockefeller would applaud that.
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Do Just One Thing…
Speak up for things you believe in. Start by sharing your views on the proposed East End development at the Special Village Meeting on February 8.
This article first appeared in the February 3rd print edition of the Vermont Standard.