Poultney banking on new development to spur tourism growth

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT
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POULTNEY, Vt. (WCAX) - The Rutland County town of Poultney is in the process of remaking itself. When Green Mountain College closed in 2019, the small town lost a big draw to its downtown. But now, officials are hoping new development will help turn things around.

“I think it’s going to be a very busy summer,” said Paul Donaldson, Poultney’s Town and Village manager. He says prospects are good for this town with a population of 3,200, including the groundbreaking of a new park along Main Street about eight years in the making. “It’s been a community effort and I think it exemplifies what Poultney is all about.”

Organizers say the park will provide a small amphitheater for music, poetry readings, and other events. “During the summer months, the performing arts will have a place to exhibit in the middle of the downtown. So, in my view, the park will be transformative,” said Larry Sullivan, executive director of the Slate Quarry Park Board.

Structures at the park will be made from local slate, an idea from artist Kerry Furlani. “If you look back at photos of the 1800s, this town was just filled with folks and business was alive, and most of it was driven by slate quarries. So, it’s just honoring the slate quarry industry and honoring the inherent beauty of slate,” Furlani said.

At the end of Main Street is Green Mountain College. A student body of 400 students used to roam the 355-acre campus before it closed two years ago. Then, Raj Bhakta bought it last summer for $4.5 million to start an agricultural school.

Donaldson says Bhakta is catching up on some deferred maintenance. “If you go down to the campus you’ll see he is actually doing a lot of work there. It might not look like he’s doing anything, but he’s preserving a lot of that campus,” he said.

Poultney is surrounded by world-class mountain bike and hiking trails. Donaldson says the states resurfacing of the Poultney River and Rail Trail has attracted some tourists. “We’re working on connecting those trail systems to the downtown to bring more people visiting to the downtown,” he said.

And there are already some outdoor summer events in the works, including the Slate Valley Epic, a mountain bike race that runs along the Rail Trail. Other events include 8K and half-marathon races and farm-to-table dinners. “Poultney has a pretty vibrant summer rec program and with the COVID, we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to do that in a safe manner. So, there’s a lot of stuff going on,” Donaldson said.

A small town with big summer plans.

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