All members of the Manchester Community are invited to participate in the second phase of the Vermont Council on Rural Development's (VCRD) Community Visit to the Town of Manchester. The meeting, to be held on Thursday, April 11th 6:30 - 9:15pm at the Burr & Burton Cafeteria (in the Rowland Building), will follow up on the initial session held in March, which drew over 220 community members.

During the day of forums on March 11th, residents met in focus groups to share their thoughts on topics of relevance in Manchester including: Tourism & Transportation; Housing; Downtown; Expanding Economic Opportunity; Poverty; Working Landscape, Food & Sustainability; Defining Authentic Manchester; Opportunities in Education; and Arts, Recreation & Nightlife. A Visiting Team of 33 representatives from state, federal, private, non-profit, and philanthropic agencies heard their ideas, and will remain as resources as the town moves forward on priorities that emerge through this process.

VCRD will begin the April 11th session by gathering ideas from residents which could be included in a draft vision statement for the future of Manchester. Ideas contributed this month will be organized and brought back to the community in May for decisions.

The April 11 meeting will center on reviewing a list of ideas generated at the first visit day. VCRD will facilitate a discussion of those ideas, where members of the Manchester community will advocate for causes of particular interest, and finally vote for issues they want to move forward in the coming year. The issues that are selected will become the focus of task forces in the future. In May, VCRD will return with a resource team of state, federal and non-profit leaders for a final visit to help the new task forces build action plans and resource connections to advance the priority projects.

According to Paul Costello, VCRD Executive Director, "Manchester residents have an excellent opportunity to help aim Manchester in the right direction on a number of issues by attending the Community Meeting at the Burr & Burton Cafeteria on April 11th. The forums held in March produced some big bold ideas. Now this meeting will help residents set priorities for action. Active participation from town residents is essential in setting direction to best meet the needs of the town going forward. Everyone is invited! And everyone who comes is equal in the process, even if they missed last month's meeting."

Chris Morrow, of the Northshire Bookstore shared that "the best part of the Community Visit day was people genuinely engaging with each other to explore the future of our town. I look forward to refining the many ideas into a plan of action to improve our quality of life." Berta Maginniss, Executive Director of the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, noted that "the energy, passion and ideas for tourism, authenticity and growing our economy voiced from the broader Community should lead us in an exciting positive direction during the balance of the project."

The VCRD Community Visit process was invited to the town by the Selectboard to help set community priorities for the future. Brian Keefe has agreed to serve as Community Visit Chairperson; he'll help coordinate work with committees over the next year. Brian was pleased with the participation in March, and hopes everyone -- business people, retired folks, students, and all community members -- comes to the meeting on April 11th.

All residents, whether they participated in the first session or not, are encouraged to come out on April 11th to vote for issues that will become the focus of working groups in the coming year. Mark your calendars and come play an active role in shaping Manchester's future. ,p. The Vermont Council on Rural Development is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing rural Vermont communities. For more information, contact Margaret at 802-223-6091 or info@vtrural.org.