By Phyl Newbeck
Like Williston and a host of towns in the region, St. George will celebrate its 250th anniversary this year. Chartered on Aug. 18, 1763, the town intends to ring in its anniversary with an afternoon potluck picnic exactly 250 years later. Anniversary organizers hope this celebration will take place in a brand new pavilion erected to commemorate the occasion.
The voters of St. George will be given a chance to weigh in on the idea before construction on the pavilion would begin. Article 13 on the Town Meeting Day warning asks whether citizens are willing to “authorize expenditure of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) from the proceeds of the sale of lots in the Town Center currently held on account for the purpose of constructing a pavilion in honor of the town’s 250th Anniversary.”
Scott Baker, chair of the St. George Planning Commission, said that in 2006 the St. George Town Plan was revised to include a vision for a town center. That vision is now being used as a starting point for alterations to the land use regulations.
“The pavilion is one more positive step in helping to provide an identifiable village center, which is something the town lacks,” Baker said.
Connie Kendall, co-chair of the anniversary committee, said the group came up with the idea of a pavilion because it will provide continued value to the town for several generations.
“By building a structure, such as a picnic pavilion, our town’s anniversary and history can be celebrated on and on for many years,” Kendall said. Residents have often expressed an interest in the creation of a town park, Kendall added, and the hope is the pavilion would be part of that plan, offering a spot for neighbors and friends to gather.
The design for what would be known as the 250th Anniversary Picnic Pavilion was submitted by Dwell Properties and Contracting of St. George, and the town will accept bids for construction if the expenditure is approved. The pavilion is expected to be 28 by 16 feet—large enough to cover six picnic tables. It would have a cement floor and is designed to complement the newly relocated schoolhouse. A sign commemorating the anniversary would be placed on the roof gable.
Kendall said land donated to the town has been sold off in parcels over the years, with money going to things like the main road and a septic and water system. There are two lots with development potential, and the money from the sale of those lots has been designated towards a town center.
“The dollars have been allocated,” said Kendall, recognizing that in the past emergencies arose which required use of some of those funds. This year, she hopes the money will be used for its intended purpose.
Kendall’s co-chair, Lisa Dillon Beliveau, is optimistic that the citizens of St. George will vote to approve the use of funds, noting that Town Meeting Day often generates a lot of discussion and some tweaking of the budget, but people are generally supportive of town expenditures.
St. George’s State Representative Joan Lenes also said she hopes the citizens of St. George will vote to support the expenditure. A strong proponent of smart growth and walkable communities, Lenes believes the pavilion will help meet the goal of creating a town center where people can gather.
Both Kendall and Beliveau urge residents to join them on the committee to honor the 250th anniversary.
“It’s a great way to meet your neighbors,” said Kendall, hoping the committee might also result in other ways for St. George residents to share information, such as the creation of a town newsletter.
Kendall said she thinks the pavilion will be a great addition to the town.
“It’s the traditional Vermont way of having a town center,” she said. “I’m really pleased to be working on this project. While I don’t necessarily think St. George will ever be a tourist destination, this will give us a more Vermont look. It will be a sweet little addition to the schoolhouse.”
Residents will vote by voice on the expenditure for the pavilion at Town Meeting, set for March 5 at 6 p.m. at Champlain Valley Union High School.
For more information or to join the anniversary committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.