DO NOT SWIM! Vermont waters are currently unsafe. Due to significant rain and flooding in most of Vermont on July 10th, with rains continuing on July 11th, currents are very strong. Also, most rivers are filled with debris, effluent, chemicals, fertilizers, etc. and are unsafe for swimming.

Montpelier's Riverfront

What would Vermont's capital city be like if it turned to "Face the River"?
Parents and kids smiling next to a sign about Confluence River Park.

We met with school groups and seniors, longtime residents and new transplants, businesses and families. We shared some of Montpelier’s river history — from Abenaki to industrial to the present day – and asked the community what they want for the future of these rivers.

The resounding response? A quiet place to sit and eat lunch by the river, a spot to splash with kids or launch a kayak, a path to walk and benches to sit on, a spot for music and celebration. This is exactly what we mean when we ask communities how they want to “Face the River.” We envision a Vermont where rivers aren’t the nowhere land behind buildings and parking lots; a time when rivers are vibrant places to connect with the river, and with the community.

Acting on this vision, we’re working with the City of Montpelier to build a new riverfront park and remove derelict dams.

In an effort to simultaneously make progress for two longtime city-wide priorities – housing and parks – One Taylor Street and Confluence River Park were designed in tandem. Together, the two projects were intended to transform the vacant Carr parking lot into a downtown asset – a two-part vision for Montpelier’s riverfront. One Taylor Street was completed in 2019 and Confluence River Park would complete the full community commitment to that space.

Informed by dozens of public meetings, focus group conversations, and citizen advisors, designs reflect community-driven desires and feedback. The park will offer accessible access to the river, a fishing platform, a boat launch, and multiple benches and seating areas. This is designed as an inclusive space where people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can gather by the river with friends, family, and community members.

Frequently Asked Questions about Confluence River Park

What value will the park bring to the community?

In keeping with one of the core tenets of Montpelier’s latest economic development goals, Confluence River Park leverages the community’s rivers as an economic asset – providing outdoor amenities for people of all abilities, attracting new residents to establish roots in their communities, and drawing visitors (and dollars) to the downtown. Putting this goal into reality, cities across the country – from Denver, CO to Missoula, MT and from Burlington, VT to Franklin, NH – have successfully capitalized on their waterfront location by constructing downtown parks and greenways along their waterfront, ultimately leveraging their waterfront location for economic growth. Similarly, Confluence River Park is an opportunity for Vermont’s capital city to improve the quality of life for residents, attract visitors to the heart of downtown, and gain its rightful place among nationally recognized river cities.


Working towards more equitable access to the outdoors, the park is just a two-minute walk from affordable housing projects (French Block, One Taylor Street), providing open space for these residents.

The park would also serve the growing set of new Montpelier residents who are, or will be, choosing Montpelier as a place to live, in part, because of forward-thinking planning for urban recreational opportunities. Being able to eat lunch at the river edge, launch a kayak or tube, splash with young kids, or cast into the river will be new opportunities for Montpelier residents. 

Case Study: Burlington’s Waterfront

Economic Value:

  • 50% of lakefront recreators are out-of-town visitors
  • Total visitor spending per day = $45,000

Source: Headwaters Economics, 2010

Who is paying for the park?

Project implementation is projected to cost $3 million. The breakdown of these expenses is approximately one-third brownfields mitigation, one-third bank stabilization and flood resilience, and one-third park amenities. Much of the expenses will be paid through charitable donations as well as grant funds from multiple sources.

As of January 2024, $1.5 million has been raised to build the park.

The City of Montpelier passed a bond March 2022 (and reaffirmed March 2023) that would allocate $600,000 towards park construction. The cost to the City of Montpelier, via the committed bond, stands at $600,000. These dollars will be leveraged 5-fold by outside funds.

How will the park withstand future flood events?

Built atop an historic floodplain at the confluence of two major rivers, the City of Montpelier is subject to devastating flooding, as witnessed in July 2023. All climate models indicate that Vermont will see increasingly frequent floods. Knowing this particular park site will flood, the site design is engineered for flood resilience, including:

  • Replacing the site’s current “industrial rubble” with tiered structural walls that stabilize the slope, add protected pockets of native vegetation, and manage runoff.
  • Uses flood-resilient construction materials and methods to harden and stabilize the structures and surfaces.
  • Incorporates levels of public access that can be closed off during normal seasonal and moderate to large flooding events.
  • Site features like benches using durable materials that will stay in place during floods.

Overall, the engineering and landscape architecture anticipate future flooding at the site – both fluctuating annual water levels and complete inundation – to ensure the park endures over time.

How the park will account for the site’s current users – people experiencing housing challenges?

Location: The park was designed in tandem with One Taylor Street and is nearly adjacent to the French Block, two of the city’s biggest housing investments. Research repeatedly indicates that parks and open spaces significantly contribute to residents’ quality of life, and are especially important in proximity to low-income populations who have less access to the outdoors than other populations.

Confluence Park’s location helps to fill this “nature gap” – a concept that identifies the intersection between lack of access to the parks and socioeconomic challenges, and seeks more equitable access to the outdoors by locating accessible parks and recreation amenities in proximity to low-income and marginalized communities. This concept echoes the findings in Montpelier’s 2020 Downtown Master Plan and Montpelier’s 2017/2018 Master Plan (as well as previous city plans), which identify the overall lack of parks and recreation in the city’s urban core.

Design: Antiquated park philosophies implemented in the second half of the 20th century incorporated park design elements to actively deter use by the unhoused, incorporating design elements such as spikes on benches or garish lighting. The message was: the unhoused population is not welcome here.
In contrast, contemporary design philosophies embrace a more equitable concept that parks are for all people. Following this approach, Confluence River Park design elements acknowledge that it’s likely that the current park users will continue to use the park and to ensure additional park users feel safe and welcome to use the space. Proactive design elements include:

  • Open sight lines so people can easily see across the site from throughout the park.
  • Multiple points of entry and exit from the paths so that people can choose various routes into and out of the park.
  • Multiple gathering areas to accommodate multiple people and user groups using the space at the same time.

These efforts seek to ensure that the park is a safe and welcoming place for all people, ultimately converting the current confluence space from an avoided corner dominated by a single user group to a vibrant place enjoyed by broad users across the community.

Montpelier's Dams

Two derelict dams are adjacent to Confluence River Park, with two more upstream on the Winooski River. We’re learning more about these dams right now, but expect that these dams hold back toxic soils and increase flood risk in downtown Montpelier. Plus, we know they make it impossible to float.

Could it someday be possible to float from Barre to Montpelier? How much polluted soil is backed up behind these dams, and would rivers be safer for fish and people if the soil were trucked out? How do these dams affect flooding in downtown Montpelier?

We have more questions than answers now – we’re focusing on learning all the details via engineering studies and community conversations – but we’re hopeful that these studies will point us all towards steps we can take to make our rivers safer for fish and people.

Make it Happen!

Give today to help communities like Montpelier "Face the River"