First grants from Wal-Mart settlement awarded


BENNINGTON — The groups that reached a $200,000 settlement with the developer of the new Wal-Mart have distributed the first round of grant funding.

The Citizens for a Greater Bennington (CFGB) and partner groups have awarded a total of $45,000 to Oldcastle Theatre, the Hoosic River Watershed Association (HooRWA) and Paran Recreations, Inc., according to a press release announcing the grants.

The CFGB and the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) had opposed a plan by developer Jonathan Levy to build a new Wal-Mart store on Northside Drive. In 2013, both entities won a settlement against Levy's company, BLS Bennington. The agreement included $200,000 from BLS Bennington to support downtown economic development as well as $25,000 to maintain, enhance or restore the Walloomsac River watershed. The payments will be distributed by a CFGB steering committee in partnership with the VNRC and the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

In the first round of grants, Oldcastle Theatre received $25,000 to support the addition of high-definition movie projection to its space at 331 Main St. The professional theater company is planning programs including the Metropolitan Opera, a weekly movie night and a film festival.

"The Citizens for a Greater Bennington feel that this is an excellent addition to the offerings of downtown Bennington and hope that it will encourage both locals and out-of-town visitors to spend time and money in the center of town," Meg Campbell, CFGB founder, said in the press release.

HooRWA was awarded $14,835 to perform a Benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) study of the Walloomsac River in Bennington County over a three-year period. The final report will be made available to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Ducks Unlimited.

The non-profit organization, founded in 1986, is "dedicated to the restoration, conservation and enjoyment of the Hoosic River and its watershed, through education, research, and advocacy" and its members, directors, volunteers and staff "envision a watershed that is ecologically sound and adds to the quality of life of its residents," according to its website.

Paran Recreations, Inc, the non-profit organization that operates Lake Paran in North Bennington, has been awarded $5,165. Those funds will support the Watershed Warriors Project, an educational program that will train a team of three to five youth to assess the water quality in Paran Creek and Lake Paran.

The organization will hold a second round of funding requests. Grant applications will be available in May.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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