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UVM students present final findings

Fifteen University of Vermont students presented the findings of their semester-long focus on the Mad River Valley last Wednesday, December 8. For the second consecutive year, UVM has used The Valley as a focus in their community development and applied economics department.

Groups of students from the service learning course, entitled Local Community Initiatives, worked with representatives from the Mad River Path Association, Mad Bikes of Waitsfield as well as local food producers and the localvores to determine "different ways that community members work together to identify challenges, resources and solutions and how they envision their future," according to Mad River Valley Planning District director Joshua Schwartz.

Schwartz worked closely with course lecturer Will "Chip" Sawyer and other members of the Valley Futures Network to coordinate the class projects. Another round of planning is already underway for the 2011 school year.

The first group of UVM students worked with the Mad River Path Association to develop recommendations for interpretive installations along the Mad River Path; the second group worked with Mad Bikes of Waitsfield to provide feedback and recommendations for the mission and organization of the green bike program.
The MRPA group recommended integrating historical materials into interpretative signage and kiosks along the Mad River Path.

Students Nicole Fenton, David Link, David Loehr, Jacob Scudder and Michael Verla included information about the flood of 1927 and the history of the Mad River Dam in their recommendations. The MRPA group also suggested including art installations to be commissioned by local artists along the Mad River Path.

The second group focused on the organization and mission of Mad Bikes of Waitsfield; students Richard Nam, Ky Brown, Evan Loschiavo, Becky Roche and Kyle O'Neill researched community bike share programs to come up with recommendations for an effective organizational model and mission statement.

The group presented their final mission statement last week: "Mad River Bikes aims to provide a fun alternative source of transportation through a free bike-sharing program. This program provides bike education, along with promoting the health of individuals, the community and the environment."

The goal of the Mad River Valley local food market study was "to gather information that would enhance the Mad River Valley Agricultural economy" according to the presentation made by students Jimmy Debiasi, Sara Geoghegan, Emily Demikat, Aaron Brown and Margaret Stone who interviewed producers from six different Valley farms.

Their study addressed product distribution, expansion, the market, demand, and infrastructure. Group members recommended implementing advertising strategies, cooperating with other farmers and producers as well as utilizing unfilled niches.

Schwartz and class instructor Sawyer are planning a third installment of the course to take place in fall 2011. Solicitation of projects will take place in the spring.



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