We can agree with Steel’s sentiment. It would be nice to have all the services needed in a community, grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, doctors’ offices, and the like, concentrated in a village center that would allow folks to walk from home, or at the very least park in one central location and walk to as many of the businesses as necessary.
Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the way Wilmington has evolved. During the past 30 years or so, the core of the community has expanded east, west, and north. The supermarket and pharmacy occupy the eastern end of the town. The hardware store is a couple miles north of the village center. The west side of town is where the bookstore, gift shops, and many of the restaurants reside.
The sprawl that has occurred in Wilmington in many ways reflects what has happened in towns across the United States and in many modernized countries across the globe. As businesses feel the need to offer their customers more goods and services, they expand to larger properties in order to build new and often bigger buildings to house their wares. That usually requires businesses to look beyond the confines of a more concentrated village center.
Rather than pine about businesses of a bygone era, it might be better to refocus on what is currently in place, and what opportunities there might be to expand the concept of what a village core is.
For instance, Wilmington be could more pedestrian friendly simply by expanding or creating sidewalks and bike paths. If there were sidewalks extending east along Route 9 to White’s Road and west to the Vermont Bowl Factory, the village core could be expanded and tied together at the same time. The same concept would work for a bike/walking path sent north to Coldbrook Road and west to Haystack Road.
While these examples wouldn’t bring back the tight, two- to three-block village center of a half century ago, they would tie the community together in a way that currently just isn’t there. We know there are committees working on trails and walkways in Wilmington, among other community-building projects, and we encourage those efforts.
Another thing to consider is the pending move of Twin Valley High School from the village center to Whitingham. Wilmington residents and officials face another loss of a community institution. At the same time, it creates an opportunity to repurpose the current high school property into something that will restore some of that community center in the village.
It has been said many times and in many ways that one of the few constants in life is change. Change often brings about a sense of loss, as Steel points out in her letter. Change can also bring about opportunity, if folks are willing to embrace it.