Not every project is a big one and many of the smaller ones are worth noting. Following are some of the accomplishments of Vernon Volunteers’ Collaborative organizations this year.
Extending Dart Hill South Trail
With the approved development of the Lyman property on Route 83 Vernon received permission to extend the Dart Hill South Trail along the east side of the Hockanum River. As part of this project a bridge was built in September by GEORGE ARTHUR, DON BELLINGHAM and the Vernon Greenways Volunteers across a tributary to the Hockanum River. With George’s guidance most of the work was accomplished in a single day. The Friends Of The Hockanum River Linear Park provided funding for the project from a DEEP grant.
Water For Gateway Garden
The Vernon Garden Club planted the Vernon Circle Gateway Garden in 2002. Since then they have maintained that garden as well as the Lafayette Square Gateway Garden welcoming visitors to Vernon and Rockville with a colorful floral display. The Vernon Circle garden has been a challenge to maintain as water had to be brought in for frequent summer watering. After much lobbying a water line was extended to the garden making the volunteers very happy.
Vernon Historical Society Publishes Its Own History
This fall the Vernon Historical Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary with an Open House in October. As part of the preparation Town Historian ARDIS ABBOTT, JIM ASHE, CAROLYN BLOUIN and CAROL CHAPPEL researched the Society’s archives and published a booklet on the 50 year history of the organization; free to members and guests.
Farm Stand Opens With Locally Grown Produce
The Strong Family Farm opened their farm stand in July funded by a CT Department of Agriculture Viability matching grant to support CT Grown products. Products for sale included locally grown produce, eggs, bread, pies, honey, maple syrup and jams. All profits help fund programs at the non-profit farm while also supporting local farmers.
VVC Awards & Scholarships
A number of our Vernon Volunteers’ Collaborative organizations give scholarships to area students or grants for local projects. They are another way we support the community.
Friends of the Vernon Arts Commission
The Friends support and supplement the work of the Vernon Arts Commission. Each year they award scholarships to Rockville High School graduating seniors interested in studying the arts in college. This year the $500 scholarship went to Renee Rogan.
New England Civil War Museum
The Alden Skinner Camp (Sons of Union Veterans), who operate the museum, each year award the Arthur Lyons Scholarship in honor of a member who supported the organization through some lean times. This year the $500 scholarship was awarded to Shannon Guibalt, a Senior at Rockville High School.
Vernon Education Foundation
The VEF awarded six “mini” grants in August to local educators totaling almost $3,000. The Foundation is a nonprofit that provides financial support for educational projects in Vernon’s public schools. Four grants went to teachers in Maple Street School and two went to teachers in the Rockville High School. Grants covered such projects as math workshop binders, a field trip to the science center, a visiting artist and sports as a learning tool.
Vernon Garden Club
The VGC’s mission is to stimulate an interest in horticulture, aid in the protection of native trees, birds, wildflowers and promote community spirit, beautification and civic betterment. Each year they award a scholarship to a graduating senior at a local high school who will be pursuing a career in horticulture or a related field. This year the $500 Scholarship went to Christian Wheeler, a 2016 RHS graduate heading to Western CT State University.
Big Things Coming
Here are some of the larger projects that Vernon Volunteers’ Collaborative organizations are working on for 2017.
Valley Falls Heritage Center
The Friends of Valley Falls are creating a Heritage Center in the stable that will tell the story of Valley Falls Park and Farm. Funds have been raised, renovations being made to accommodate visitors and displays created to tell the story. The area is rich with history, but the focus will be on the Beach family and gentleman’s farm era.
Spanning the Hockanum
The plan of the Hockanum River Linear Park is to connect all the trails from Ellington to East Hartford. A missing link is connecting the Ellington trail, which follows the old rail bed on the west side, to the Dart Hill trails on the east side of the river. Next Spring the Friends of the Hockanum River Linear Park and the Vernon Greenways Volunteers, led by Town Engineer Dave Smith, will install a Suspended Bridge joining the trails across the Hockanum River just above the Water Treatment Plant.
New Historical Publications
The Vernon Historical Society is involved in projects to publish four books.
● Jean Luddy, the Museum Director, is working with Vernon schools to update and publish
“Vernon, Our Town,” which will be given to third graders as part of their Local History unit.
● In 1936 a history of Vernon and Rockville was written as part of the WPA Writers’ Project,
but never published. It will be made available in the new year.
● VHS’s Jim Ashe and Carolyn Blouin are publishing a “Then and Now” photo book.
● The Society is also supporting Richard Symonds, Jr’s “Water Powered Mill Sites In Vernon,
CT;” soon to be released.
Property acquisitions seem to take forever as they move through State and Federal agencies. Funds have been approved for the Tolland County Agricultural Center’s purchase of Gunther Farm and the purchase of Meetinghouse Hill by a local group. These open space projects should be completed in 2017.
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What We Did For You This Year
Whether you have children, enjoy walking, the arts, or want to feel part of the town you have in one way or another been touched by the organizations of the Vernon Volunteers’ Collaborative. Which were important to you and your family?
● Art classes for both children and adults were provided by Arts Center East.
● Many art programs for adults and children are quietly sponsored by the Friends of the Vernon Arts Commission.
● The New England Civil War Museum encouraged children to take part in a Civil War Encampment at the Strong Family Farm.
● Guided hikes were offered by the Northern Connecticut Land Trust at several of their properties.
● Strong Family Farm provided a taste of farm life including programs for children, a farm stand and the recent Fall Harvest Festival.
● Concerts in Rockville were organized and sung by The Vernon Chorale.
● The 4-H Fair at the Tolland County Agricultural Center connected young and old with farm life.
● Unseen was the support of teachers and students by the Vernon Education Foundation with new books and mini grants to teachers.
● Hikers and bikers on the Rail Trail appreciate the plantings created and maintained by the Vernon Greenways Volunteers.
● Part of being a community is a connection to its past. For 50 years the Vernon Historical Society has connected us through their programs and exhibits.
What You can Do For Us This Season
The town provides very little monetary support to our organizations. Funding comes primarily from membership, donations, grants, and fund raisers.
The holiday season is traditionally a time of giving and the organizations that help Make Vernon Special for you need your support. At VernonVolunteers.org is a description of each organization. Choose one or more that touched you this year and either become a member or make a donation. Click the ‘Join’ tab for a link to member organizations for either joining or donating.