On June 9, 2011 the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing to present and receive input on the Plan Of Conservation & Development that will be adopted later this year and will guide the town for the next decade. Following is my testimony to the Commission outlining a vision for the Tankerhoosen Valley:
In reviewing the Draft one of our largest challenges is our aging population and attracting young families to town. At one of the POCD public input meetings several people mentioned that Vernon does not have a memorable positive identity to people living in other towns, which might encourage people to move here.
In the POCD telephone surveys residents valued our natural resources - forests, lakes and rivers - and favored promoting and preserving our open space and greenways as well as preserving and promoting our historic resources.
I think we are missing an opportunity to create an additional positive, recognizable image, while protecting and preserving our natural resources that will also attract young families to town.
I’ve lived in Vernon south of the highway for 48 years, hiking the roads and trails, using the parks and raising my family here. Not until I was drawn into the Concert Controversy last year did I begin to think about the Tankerhoosen River and the Tankerhoosen Valley as a unit - a unique, connected, cohesive resource.
The Tankerhoosen River parallels I-84 having its headwaters in the Tolland hills east of town and cascading west where it joins the Hockanum River in Talcottville. The Valley is the drainage basin that roughly follows Route 30 on the north and Bolton Road on the east. It includes the historic village of Talcottville, the Talcott Ravine, the Rails Trail, Vernon Depot, Wings Butterfly Garden, Valley Falls Park, five cemeteries, the Belding Wildlife Management Area, several Northern Connecticut Land Trust properties, the Tolland Agricultural Center property, the historic buildings along Route 30, many dams and ponds, and soon the DEP Mason property.
For a river that is only a little over five miles long the history, scenery, trail system and parks are unique. Other towns in the area have wonderful parks and great history, but in none are they connected as they are in Vernon; and the river running through it is the connector. In none of the other towns can you hike, bike, swim, picnic, fish and visit outdoor museums in a connected area.
My suggestion is that the POCD recognize the Tankerhoosen Valley as a resource to be developed and promoted as a unit. That instead of promoting individual elements such as Talcottville, Valley Falls and the Rails Trail, we promote the Valley as a whole that contains these resources. An example of where the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
There are excellent organizations in town that focus on the elements including Vernon Greenways Volunteers, the Vernon Garden Club, Friends of Valley Falls, the Open Space Task Force, DEP, Hockanum River Linear Park, and the Vernon Historical Society. We have the resources in place to bring attention to the Valley.
My contribution over the past year has been to create a website, Tankerhoosen.info, that begins to bring together in one place these resources and then call attention to and share them with the community through e-newsletters and on Facebook. It has helped me realize what we have and what a resource it can be for the town.
For the POCD the challenge is to balance protection and preservation of the Valley with the need to develop new businesses. Exits 66 and 67 are attractive for future development, but are also the gateways to the Tankerhoosen Valley. One day we might have an information center at one of the exits promoting the Valley, Rockville and Vernon.
I would ask that in this ten year plan you be gentle with business development at the two exits while we explore together developing the Valley as a unique resource for the town. Focus instead on reuse of the empty buildings in our current industrial parks, in Rockville and along Route 83.
I believe that recognizing and promoting the Tankerhoosen Valley as a whole will create a unique positive identity for Vernon that will attract young families, raise property values and create a favorable environment for attracting business.