Waterbury has a population of 5,064 and has two municipalities, the town and the village. Waterbury is located on I-89 and is known as the “recreational crossroads” thanks to access to biking, hiking, and ski resort facilities. Other types of activities include a community-wide interest in the arts ranging from collaborations at the elementary school, community theater, Art in the Alley and Waterbury ArtsFest. There is also a large and growing social scene thanks to the many restaurants and local beer attractions combined with an active Farmer’s Market. Waterbury is a mix of residential and business, being home to Vermont businesses such as Ben and Jerry’s and Keurig. Waterbury located of off Interstate 89 and Route 100 between Burlington and Montpelier with regular access to public transportation including Amtrak.
There are a large number of community events throughout the year including the “Not Quite Independence Day” Celebration, which is a parade and a barbeque festival. There is also the “Waterbury Arts Festival”, Rotary “Music in the Park” summer series and the “Fall Barn Dance”. Winter brings their “Festival of Lights”. A local energy committee does a renewable energy festival in April, which draws a large number of people to Waterbury. Other community assets include WDEV, the local radio station, Revitalizing Waterbury, a local downtown organization, and the Recreation Department that hosts many community events over the year.
In total, 220 buildings, mostly private homes, were damaged by floodwaters during Irene. The municipal and state office complexes were also flooded. The municipal offices of Waterbury were forced to move to temporary quarters, working out of the elementary school at first and then a long term temporary space above the fire station while they build a new municipal center above the flood hazard area. Waterbury had nearly 300 people come to volunteer every day to help impacted neighbors, requiring an intense organizational effort. Out of Irene came the non-profit Rebuild Waterbury that has raised $1 million to help property owners of residences and commercial buildings damaged by Irene. FEMA also had a presence post-Irene and worked with the town of Waterbury on creating and implementing 22 long term recovery projects. Waterbury CROs members noted the legacy of all the civic engagement activities going in Waterbury before Irene that allowed for the easy creation of diverse coalitions able to function during Irene to meet common goals.
The goal of the Waterbury CROs project is to promote public awareness of flooding and its impacts. They will focus on what flooding means to people and what they can possibly do to help themselves live in a community whose village lies mostly within a flood hazard area.
The first project is an annual, post-Irene summary that is distributed to all residents throughout the community by way of the local weekly paper and municipal website. The information is comprised of profiles of local residents and what they are doing to become more flood resilient, with a summary of the science behind flooding.
The next step is to expand on this information aimed at public awareness and education about the science that has been developed, and how it can impact people, in a meaningful way. The Waterbury CRO plans to prepare a display, with the flood recovery information, that will be coordinated with events surrounding the opening of the new municipal building. A mobile app is being considered. The ongoing Flood Plain Management Working Group and CRO updates the municipal website with flood hazard information on a regular basis to keep citizens informed on important mitigation measures that are encouraged in the flood prone areas. Their goal is to piece together the themes of resilience, experience and science in a way that educates the Waterbury community as a whole.