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Vermont in Danger!

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State of Vermont listed among most endangered places

By Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press, 5/24/2004 10:52

WASHINGTON (AP) Famous for its fall foliage, quaint towns and covered bridges, the state of Vermont and its charm is threatened by a corporate behemoth, a nonprofit preservation group warned on Monday.

The alleged culprit: Wal-Mart.

Because of plans for several new Wal-Mart Supercenters across the state, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the entire state of Vermont on its 2004 list of the most endangered historic places in the United States.

The 10 other sites on the list include Nine Mile Canyon in Utah, with its 10,000 Native American rock-art images; the Ridgewood Ranch in northern California, the home and final resting place of legendary racehorse Seabiscuit; and Pennsylvania's Bethlehem Works steel plant.

Vermont is the only state ever to make the annual list in its entirety.

Richard Moe, president of the trust, said Vermont's ''special magic'' would vanish with the onslaught of the giant stores.

''Vermont is uniquely a state of small towns, and many of these downtowns would be decimated by this,'' Moe said. ''A lot of small businesses just disappear in the face of a huge Wal-Mart.''

Moe fears one giant retail store will attract others to the Green Mountain State. ''It will totally change the character of Vermont over time, and that would be a tragedy,'' he said.

The state is making a rare reappearance on the trust's list. It was first listed back in 1993, when Vermont was the only state without a Wal-Mart, and the trust worried about impending plans for construction of several stores.

''We're not telling any communities that they shouldn't have a Wal-Mart,'' said Moe. ''We simply want communities to have their eyes wide open when they make these decisions because it's within the ability of a community to affect the location, size and design of these stores.''

One alternative, said Moe, would be to persuade the retailer to build smaller chains in existing buildings that have been abandoned or are otherwise not being used, saving rural landscapes and not having quite the devastating impact that a superstore would have.

On the Net: National Trust for Historic Preservation:

From The Boston Globe

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It is very true that Wal-Mart could ruin Vermont. There are currently four Wal-Mart's currently in Vermont (If I am correct), with seven more on the way. This may be a disaster, this may be a blessing. Many people come to Vermont to enjoy the peace and tranquility, but Wal-Mart is also a very convenient place to shop, so considering a Wal-Mart could help.. Who knows? It's up to the towns, themselves.

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Protecting Vermont's integrity

Earlier this spring, the National Geographic Society ranked Vermont 11th on a list of the 115 highest quality destinations in the world.

Several weeks later, the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified Vermont as one of the most endangered historic places in America.

On the surface, the coincidence of these designations may seem ironic, but digging deeper, they offer insights into how Vermont has come to be the special place we cherish, and they lay the seedbed for a strategy whereby Vermont can sustain itself and thrive in the coming decades.

Vermonters have begun to understand the double-edged challenge we face -- that our state is supremely attractive and perilously fragile.

Vermont earned National Geographic's Destination Stewardship recognition for the quality and integrity of its natural, cultural, historic, and aesthetic attributes.

The high ranking suggests that, so far, Vermonters are doing a good job of protecting these assets in the face of significant challenges.

At the same time, Vermont's economic challenges offer ongoing threats to its quality and integrity both as a place to live and as a destination.

Although the National Trust focused its concern on the proliferation of Wal-Mart, the relationships between preservation and economic development are much more complex.

Vermont's broad agricultural base remains in economic decline, and with it the distinctive character of the Vermont farm landscape is steadily vanishing.

Vermont's industrial base, which was never robust, is shaky at best.

Vermonters look to the future and rightly ask, "How do we develop our economy and create jobs in ways that preserve the character of this place?"

There are signs of hope. The creative sector shows vitality as an increasingly energetic mainstay of the Vermont economy.

Vermont brand identity has gained enviable national and international reach, helping environmentally friendly niche producers to thrive.

National Geographic's Destination Stewardship designation affirms the quality and, it is hoped, the sustainability of Vermont as a vibrant place for residents and visitors alike.

How can these elements of creativity, brand, and destination be galvanized into a strategy that will provide a strengthened economic future while avoiding the kinds of growth that threaten the quality and character of Vermont?

Part of the answer lies in protection of Vermont's natural, historic, and cultural assets, but a key to economic sustainability lies beyond simple protection.

Through the appropriate and sensitive application of these assets Vermont can enhance its effectiveness as a destination.

Vermonters have the opportunity to shape the destination economy of their state, developing it into a sustainable and sustaining economic engine.

Vermont ranked as high as it did in the National Geographic Destination Poll both because of the quality of its attributes and because of the effectiveness of its stewardship.

The poll critically evaluated destinations around the globe according to six criteria, including environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, and "condition of built heritage" -- that is, historic places, archeology, and current structures.

The poll also considered the nature of tourism in each destination, assessing to what degree tourism development is of "appropriate character" to the place.

Vermont is not a theme park.

Vermont is a real place, with a distinctive cultural character and a working landscape that is both beautiful and in transition. Its farm countryside is a national icon -- a "home" for which the nation longs.

Shaped largely by an agricultural economy, Vermont's working countryside, its rural culture, and its compact villages are among its most attractive attributes, for visitors as well as for residents.

While Vermonters are justifiably wary of "commodified tourism," environmentally sensitive cultural heritage tourism can and should be cultivated in Vermont.

Vermont is a place for personal discovery. It begs for slower-paced, smaller-scaled, respectful exploration.

Visitors need help and encouragement to discover this Vermont. If we can help them to do this successfully, we can further the stewardship of Vermont while we build the tourism base of our economy.

We can take as our models the few destinations that outranked Vermont on the National Geographic list -- places like Cape Breton, the Norwegian fjords, and Tuscany -- that have long looked to their cultural heritage for insight into what appropriate tourism can be.

With our state simultaneously listed as a world-class destination and as a highly endangered place, Vermonters should pause to reflect on its character and its future.

The time is right for an exploration of how Vermont's essential attributes work together, how they are cared for, and how they may help to shape our economic future.

Through a combination of thoughtful stewardship and careful development, we can secure for our children a Vermont that is both a real place that they can cherish and a sustaining place in which they can make their futures.

David A. Donath is president of the Woodstock Foundation, a public non-profit institution founded by Laurance S. and Mary F. Rockefeller that promotes conservation, sustainable land use, and heritage as values that are essential to culture, community, and the human spirit. The Woodstock Foundation operates the Billings Farm & Museum dedicated to telling the story of Vermont's rural heritage. The writer lives in Pomfret.

From The Burlington Free Press

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Stay out of Vermont!! I wish that a state such as Vermont could keep control of all of the businesses. it is a very peaceful place that I wish would stay that way!

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Wow, just looking at your post for a second I thought you were bashing! Obviously you are not... I don't agree fully with "stay out", but I do wish there would be a fix to the problems of lakeshore development and box companies.

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