Brattleboro Floodplain

A restored floodplain and 12-acre park in downtown Brattleboro.

When Tropical Storm Irene blasted through Brattleboro in 2011, these 12-acres should have helped absorb the torrent. But they didn’t.

Used as industrial sawmill and lumber storage site for 120-years, the site has been filled with imported gravel, elevating the land well above the river.

In Irene’s aftermath, local and state entities put their heads together to identify places where restored floodplains could help protect homes and businesses from the next big flood. And what was a top priority? This 12-acre parcel along the Whetstone Brook at 250 Birge St. in downtown Brattleboro.

Vermont River Conservancy bought the 12-acre parcel in 2017 and is now actively working to restore the site to a working floodplain and community park.

Working closely with the Town of Brattleboro, we completed archeology studies, soil testing, and permitting, and getting ready to begin site restoration. Right now, trucks are hauling away more than 40,000 cubic yards of gravel fill so the river can regularly and naturally spill across the land, slow, and drop debris during the next big flood. Plus, we’ll plant a 100-foot wide riparian buffer of native trees and shrubs and restore a small wetland.

Finally, we’ll develop the property as a community park with public access to the river. Site plans include all abilities trails, parking, natural and cultural interpretation, and community art. The new park will provide recreation access for scores of families in the adjacent neighborhoods for fishing, wading, and the simple enjoyment of a peaceful walk, increasing quality of life and helping Brattleboro to attract and retain top talent. In addition, per Brattleboro zoning ordinances, presence of a park will allow for new higher-density housing within ¼-mile of the park, helping to augment housing stock and mitigate Brattleboro’s housing crisis, again providing subsequent economic benefits.

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