River Garden is a public trust

BRATTLEBORO — The Robert H. Gibson River Garden is a public trust. It was funded by public money. As part of the Downtown Improvement District, it is overseen by public officials - the Selectboard and officials from the state of Vermont - through the Downtown Improvement District legislation.

For its owner, Building a Better Brattleboro (BaBB), to say that it can no longer afford to maintain the River Garden, and for most members of the Selectboard to go along with that assertion, is for both bodies to knowingly and wrongly turn their backs on an important public facility in Brattleboro's downtown.

Certainly, our downtown shops are important and deserve our patronage, but being in the downtown isn't just about shopping. It's also about being part of our community and, for that, public spaces are necessary.

The River Garden has been used by a multitude of organizations for many purposes: the Winter Farmers' Market, the Brattleboro Music Center, the Brattleboro Literary Festival. It's been used for public gatherings after the Brooks House fire, for the annual meetings of local nonprofit organizations, and as a place where tourists can gather information, friends can have lunch, and shoppers can stop in for a bathroom break. (How many other public bathrooms are there in the downtown area?)

The Selectboard and BaBB have a responsibility to the citizens of Brattleboro and the region to find ways of keeping the River Garden open as a public facility.

I hope that other people who have used and benefited from the River Garden will make their feelings and opinions known to the Selectboard and to BaBB, in as many ways as possible, by writing to the newspapers and to BaBB, and by calling Selectboard members and candidates.

In addition, Brattleboro residents should call Town Meeting members and suggest that they amend the BaBB budget article to be contingent on the continued operation of the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.

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