Vergennes' Park Street projects are advancing

VERGENNES — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has created a separate nonprofit organization to focus on fundraising to support landscaping the lawn on the church’s west side. The parish envisions that lawn as a welcoming public park space that will serve as an extension of the adjacent city green and include a stone sitting circle.

The church introduced its nonprofit, called the “Park Street Community Project,” at a Vergennes Day booth in late August and raised $650 in pledges that day toward what project committee member Sarah Stroup said is a projected $15,000 cost. 

The founding of the church’s nonprofit follows a successful partnership between St. Paul’s and the city of Vergennes on a related infrastructure project. 

St. Paul’s and the Vergennes City Council this past winter agreed to apply jointly for a grant that helped fund this summer’s rebuild and widening of the sidewalk along Park Street, plus an upgrade of the church-owned stone retaining wall that runs along the sidewalk and church property.

That project cost came in at $35,620, far under its original roughly $93,000 estimate. 

The church and city had originally agreed to pay about $23,000 each, or 25 percent of the projected cost. But because the total 50 percent local match of what was a Designated Downtown grant came in at a little less than $18,000, the Vergennes City Council last week agreed to waive the church’s share of the cost and allow it to apply it toward the rest of its related projects. 

The church is also restoring the stained-glass windows that overlook the lawn it intends to turn into a public park, a project estimated at $50,725. It also plans to spend the $15,000 to improve the landscaping of the lawn to provide seating and what Stroup called a “gathering space” for visitors to the green and the lawn area.

Stroup said the church appreciates the help it has received from City Manager Matt Chabot and the council. 

“We are grateful for the city’s support and for the new city manager, who was able to secure a talented and affordable contractor,” Stroup said in an email, adding, “We appreciate the support from the city council last week, and look forward to a continued productive partnership.”

Stroup said fundraising is continuing “in and out of the congregation” toward the park project. The church has enlisted United Way of Addison County as its fiscal agent, and she said donations to this project can be made at unitedwayaddisoncounty.org by specifying donations should go to the Park Street Community Project.  

By next spring, she said, the church plans to begin the project.

“The nice thing about the landscaping is that it can be continuous — we want to move a tree, put in a walkway from the sidewalk, and build the stone circle next spring/summer,” Stroup said. “But we have other ambitions and ideas (community gardens, a rain garden by Main Street to harvest water in line with city water reclamation plans, etc.).”

Funding for the stained glass windows is largely, but not completely, in place. The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont awarded the small congregation $22,500 a year ago. St. Paul’s earned a $16,988 Vermont Historical Preservation Grant that must be matched in December. The Cerf Foundation just awarded St. Paul’s $6,000, and the church has raised $5,100 internally.

Restoration began in June, and St. Paul’s parishioners believe restored windows overlooking the lawn will enhance the improvements. 

“With new storm windows scheduled to be installed at the end of 2019, we look forward to having these beautiful windows on display above our new sidewalk and lawn,” Stroup said.  

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