BENNINGTON — Southwestern Vermont Health Care announced Friday that it has finalized an agreement with the town of Bennington for the use and maintenance of playing fields at the former Southern Vermont College campus.
The agreement covers the soccer and baseball fields, and is expected to remain in effect until at least Dec. 1, when it will be reviewed by both parties, SVHC said in a release. The town will make no payment to SVHC for the use of the fields, a spokesperson said.
SVHC purchased the 371-acre campus in December with a high bid of $4.65 million during an auction in U.S. District Court. The college closed in May 2019.
“This is the beginning of what we envisioned when acquiring the property,” said Thomas A. Dee, SVHC’s president and CEO. “We are pleased to be working together with the town and making this valuable asset available to the community. It’s a win-win.”
Under the agreement, the Town of Bennington’s Buildings & Grounds Department will be responsible for assessing the fields, bleachers, and other structures; mowing and trimming; preparing the fields for play; providing trash collection; and contracting and portable toilets, SVHC said. In addition, the town will insure the fields covered under the agreement.
The town will also schedule the fields using the current Town of Bennington Field Use Request forms and procedures.
“With very little additional investment, we are able to make a new civic space available to the people of Bennington,” said Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Dan Monks. “SVHC is a great partner, and we are happy to lend a hand in this way.”
Additionally, SVHC said it has signed an agreement with the Bennington County Regional Commission to assist the health system in developing a master plan for potential long-term development of the campus property.
The campus includes about 200 acres under a conservation easement held by the Vermont Land Trust. The trust and SVHC agreed prior to the purchase to continue that agreement. The mostly wooded acreage is around the base of Mount Anthony and includes hiking trails that have been used by the community.