News Roundup: Windham County Preserve To Grow By 615 Acres
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about Vermont's ongoing vaccination efforts, new trails and more for Thursday, July 29.
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1. Vermont Department of Health takes barnstorm approach to reaching unvaccinated Vermonters
The state health department is using a so-called barnstorm approach to try to reach the nearly 90,000 Vermonters who yet to be vaccinated.
They’re holding small vaccine clinics at race tracks, fair grounds and factories across the state..
Rhonda Desrochers is with the Department of Health.
"We’re there to fill that gap, so that people can get vaccinated if they want to," Desrochers said. "And yeah, I’ve had people tell me that they would not have gotten vaccinated had we not been there."
The state's vaccination rate stands at 83.7%, the highest in the nation.
— Lexi Krupp
2. Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association to acquire an additional 615 acres of land
A public trails system in Windham County is about to get much bigger, thanks to a recent decision by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association has been conserving land in southeastern Vermont since 1995.
The group helps maintain a 26-mile trail system and it’s acquired and conserved 2,700 acres in five towns.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will give the Pinnacle Association up to a quarter-million dollars to help purchase another 615 acres, which would be the biggest single land purchase in the group’s history.
The parcel includes two ponds and is identified as priority habitat by the state.
The organization says it plans to eventually build new trails on the land, which sits in Townshend, Brookline and Athens.
— Howard Weiss-Tisman
New Norcross trail opens Thursday on Mt. Ascutney
Starting this week, mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners will have a new trail to explore on Mt. Ascutney.
When it opens Thursday, the new eight-mile Norcross Trail will connect more than 35 miles of trails at Ascutney Outdoors Center and Mount Ascutney State Park.
First envisioned in 2010, the trail is a joint effort by Ascutney Trails Association and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
It was built by hand by members of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. The Vermont Mountain Bike Association also contributed funds to the project.
There is a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday at 5 p.m. You can find more at ascutneytrails.com.
— Abagael Giles
3. Vermont Chamber of Commerce calls on lawmakers to renew federal restaurant aid
The Vermont Chamber of Commerce is asking federal lawmakers to replenish a pandemic aid fund for restaurants.
Congress set aside nearly $30 billion earlier this year to help restaurants recover from the pandemic.
Amy Spear is vice president of tourism at the Chamber of Commerce.
She says most of the Vermont restaurants that requested grants from the program had their applications denied.
“When you think about the scale, it was about 38% of the restaurants in the state that got funding, so it’s pretty big gap that’s still there for folks," Spear said.
Spear says funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund didn’t come close to meeting financial losses that restaurants suffered during the pandemic.
She says many Vermont restaurants will need federal aid in order to stay afloat beyond the summer season.
“There are 581 restaurants in Vermont, restaurants and bars, that did not get funded, and that’s $120 million in unmet need that was left behind for Vermont restaurants,” Spear said.
The Chamber of Commerce is now asking federal lawmakers to replenish the fund.
— Peter Hirschfeld
4. Vermont Cannabis Control Board aims to reduce barriers for small growers
Vermont's Cannabis Control Board says they want to reduce barriers for small growers getting into the retail market.
James Pepper, Julie Hulburd, and Kyle Harris make up the recently formed board. Vermont could have its first legal retail cannabis shops open sometime next year, but first the three-person committee must craft the new rules for the state's marijuana industry.
Speaking to VPR's Vermont Edition Wednesday, Harris said the board want to prioritize small Vermont growers and make the application process easy.
"I don't want any cultivator to feel like they need to go to a business advisor or legal council in order to get an application before the board," Harris said.
The board says it plans to have its set of rules and regulations drafted by October.
— Connor Cyrus
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.