Shelburne gets AARP grant for making communities more livable

AARP announced that Shelburne was one of five Vermont organizations that will receive 2024 Community Challenge grants, part of AARP’s largest investment in communities to date with $3.8 million awarded among 343 organizations nationwide.

Grantees will implement quick-action projects that help communities become more livable by improving public places; transportation; housing; digital connections; and more, with an emphasis on the needs of adults ages 50 and older.

Shelburne received almost $23,000 for a project to test strategies to slow traffic and improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. The town will install bike parking, temporary crosswalks, street art and other traffic calming measures, allowing residents to envision permanent improvements to the street.

This project will allow residents to test strategies to transform Shelburne’s main street into a slow shopping street, especially accessible by active transportation modes and particularly for those less confident or mobility-challenged people.

A release from the town of Shelburne said the funds will be used as a demonstration project intended “to make Falls Road safer and more enjoyable to visit this summer.”

“From July 9 into September, new crosswalks, public art, flowers and other traffic calming features with enhance the village’s main street and support local businesses,” the release said. “A team of volunteers planned the project for over a year, connecting business owners with active residents.”

Shelburne Selectboard member Andrew Everett said, “Community feedback clearly indicates that citizens of Shelburne want a safer, more welcoming Falls Road that allows them to linger and interact with fellow citizens and businesses. This is an exciting opportunity to experiment with some features that help with that. We hope to come out of the short, no-cost-to-the-town demonstration with an idea of what works and what doesn’t to turn this stretch into a true Main Street that is a safe and thriving center of commerce and culture which fosters a strong sense of community and promotes access by all ages and abilities.”

The Shelburne Farmers Market supports the project. “We believe this project could further sweeten our quality of life in Shelburne,” said Sarah Stillman, the farmers market manager.

By improving walkability and safe biking, Stillman said the project could help protect safe access to share community spaces like Village Green.

“AARP Vermont is committed to working with local leaders, advocates, and policymakers to make our communities better places to live for Vermonters of all ages, especially those 50 and older,” said AARP Vermont state director, Greg Marchildon. “We are proud to collaborate with this year’s grantees as they make immediate improvements to address long-standing and emerging challenges across our communities.”

The four other Vermont projects receiving AARP funds are Barre’s senior center — $15,000; Burlington’s Green Mountain Transit Authority — $15,000; Richford’s Northern Tier Center for Health — $10,750; and Montpelier’s farmers market — $7,500.

The grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods, and rural areas to become great places to live for people of all ages, with an emphasis on people ages 50 and older. Since 2017, AARP Vermont has awarded 33 grants and $353,206 through the program to nonprofit organizations and government entities across the state.

AARP Community Challenge grant projects will be funded in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. True to the program’s quick-action nature, projects must be completed by Dec. 15, 2024.