Contest entries show dreams for a better green

Winning design yet to be announced for Maple Tree Place

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

One design included a giant treehouse. Another featured quirky touches like a pedestal-mounted clock and a sundial. A third had paths crisscrossing extensively landscaped areas.

They were among the eight entries revealed last week in the “Make a Green Come True” contest held to determine the design of the 1-acre square at the heart of the Maple Tree Place retail center.

Contest judges huddled around the entries displayed on easels in the lobby of the shopping center’s Majestic 10 multiplex on Friday. They were impressed.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Andy Mikell, a Williston Selectboard member and one of the six contest judges, as he studied one entry. “There’s some good talent here.”

The entries offered wide-ranging approaches to creating the park-like setting and attractive venue for community events the contest called for. Judging criteria included functionality and design value, use of climate-appropriate landscaping and creativity.

Perhaps the most original entry was submitted by Forever Young Treehouses, a Burlington nonprofit. It showed a treehouse accessed via a long, gently sloping ramp. Other features included paths, plantings and labyrinths laid out in stone.

A somewhat more conventional but still quirky approach was advocated by Williston resident Mary Jo Childs, who owns a landscaping company. Childs, along with South Burlington resident Judy Goodyear, submitted a design that featured a path radiating out from a central plaza. The plan offered “options” that included a pillar clock and a sundial.

Williston resident Sharon Gutwin, owner of Rehab Gym in Maple Tree Place, submitted a pet-friendly design. In addition to a gazebo, paths and a playground, the entry suggested that “dog stations” where droppings could be deposited.

The remaining plans largely stuck to traditional park designs. Some included areas where concerts could be held; others had paths crisscrossing the green. One called for a meadow dotted with wildflowers and ringed by a gravel path.

The contest has implications beyond attracting more customers. Town officials have said they hope the green will help Maple Tree Place congeal into a downtown for Williston, a destination for both shoppers and community events. Judges seemed aware of that goal.

“A lot of thought, a lot of hard work went into these entries,” said Philip Daniels, another judge who lives in Williston and is president of TD Banknorth Vermont. “One of these will definitely make Williston a better place.”

The entries were revealed during a Feb. 1 open house at the Majestic 10. About 50 people attended the event, viewing the entries displayed in the movie theater’s lobby.

The winning entry will receive a $1,000 prize. The budget for the project is $75,000, although officials with Inland US Management LLC, the Illinois-based company that manages Maple Tree Place and is overseeing the contest, say that budget may be stretched by completing the selected project in phases or using in-kind donations from local businesses.

Inland representatives also emphasize that the chosen design will be subject to local and state land-use approval and may be modified to comply with regulatory requirements. They hope to begin work on the project this spring or summer.

Judging results were tallied Monday, but the winner’s name was not released before the Observer went to press. Lindsey Burke, marketing manager for Inland US Management, said Monday that the results could not be announced until she ensured that the contest’s legal requirements were satisfied and the winner was notified.

Interest in the contest was slow to build, with only three complete entries submitted in the days leading up to the deadline. The remaining entries came in at the last minute.

“We’re got eight solid entries,” Burke said. “We’re really pleased with the results.”