AARP Vermont recently announced the selection of two Vermont communities to receive $15,000 each in support of community design initiatives aimed at creating a more livable community for all ages.
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Brattleboro and Jericho/Underhill were each awarded grants to conduct Active Living Workshops in their towns featuring a nationally renowned expert on community redesign and improvement. Selection was based in part on the proposal’s focus on transportation and pedestrian needs, impact on older residents and on the demonstrated support of community groups, residents and town officials. The workshops were just completed in each town and work is already underway to address concerns, ideas and opportunities in these communities.
"These were very strong proposals and we are excited to help these communities move forward with their efforts to tackle complex design and development challenges while enhancing the walkability and livability of their communities," said Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont state director. "This initiative is an extension of the work AARP has been doing on livable communities and transportation since 2006. We hope this intensive program of education and actual planning will lead to actionable recommendations that will really make a difference for residents."
A central element of the award includes a very hands-on Active Living Workshop with Dan Burden, an internationally recognized authority on livable and sustainable communities, healthy streets, traffic calming, and bicycle and pedestrian programs. He is co-founder and executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute based in Port Townsend, Washington.
The Active Living Workshops will focus on a specific area of interest to each community. In Underhill/Jericho the selected site is the area known as Underhill Flats, and in Brattleboro it is a busy section of Canal St. between the hospital and the high school.
The aim is to educate and inspire community leaders and residents to improve livability, walkability and active transportation. Working together, the planning groups will conduct walking audits of roadways, explore strategies and design approaches and review the challenges they may face. With the guidance of Burden, the workshops will help participants recognize how planning and community design influence successful aging, health, and overall livability while giving participants an expanded toolkit to draw from to build healthier neighborhoods.
Additional funding will be available towards implementation of one or more of the workshop recommendations and AARP will provide ongoing support to both communities. AARP expects to continue to support the projects in the coming year as well.
AARP Vermont has led efforts in the state to promote livable communities for older residents. It was instrumental in the recent passage of a Complete Streets bill signed into law in May by Governor Shumlin. AARP defines a livable community as one that has affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.