Thursday February 21, 2013

BAILEY T. O’NEILL

Special to the Banner

BENNINGTON -- Another historical installment from One World Conservation Center’s "The Valley We Live In" series is set to take place this evening with the "Tales and History of the Benmont Mill."

Now in its second season, "The Valley We Live In" series originated with the intent of hosting speakers with knowledge of Bennington’s history, present, and future possibilities.

"We tried to take it chronologically through the history of the valley and into present day and then the future," said Bruce Evey, director of One World Conservation Center.

The first season of the program attracted an average attendance of 30 people comprised of mostly local residents. However, some events have reached the center’s maximum capacity of 125.

During its second season, the program is continuing its look at the history of the valley. This winter’s programs have already included histories of the Bennington Battle Monument and maple sugaring, and Thursday’s event will focus on the Benmont Mills, with a presentation by owner Jon Goodrich, who has owned the property the past 15 years. In that time, Goodrich has gathered knowledge of every past use of the building and the role it has played in the community.

The Conservation Center has benefited greatly from the program, seeing an increased attendance at the 96-acre nature reserve that features trails to walk, active beaver dams and flagged tree species to help visitors easily identify the diversity of the forest.


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"We probably had about 1,500 people coming to the reserve three years ago; since the start of the program I think we have had 4,000 or more people visit the reserve," said Evey.

Co-sponsored by the Bank of Bennington, The Valley We Live In has four presentations remaining after Thursday, bringing presenters from all areas and professions who may be as interesting as the content they are covering. The next installment, "An Evening with Mark Twain," will feature Twain impersonator John Pogson, who has performed at the White House, the Smithsonian, and other esteemed venues nationwide. Reservations for this particular event are strongly encouraged as it is expected to reach the capacity margin.

Later presenters include Dr. Lea Newman, a local Robert Frost expert, on April 4; Jeanne Brink, a woman of Abenaki decent and an expert who presents throughout New England to discuss the history and culture of the Western Abenaki; and Bill Budde, an Arlington resident who will explore the distinctions between family history and genealogy on May 2.

"Our programs are extremely interactive," said Evey, "our guests ask a lot of questions in the Q and A sessions."

All events are begin a 7 p.m. at OWCC on Route 7. The events are free to the public with donations to OWCC appreciated. For more information visit www.oneworldconservationcenter.org.

Bailey O’Neill is a senior at Mount Anthony Union High School. He is interning at the Banner.