State will use federal grant for a barn census

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(Host) State government plans to conduct a census of all the barns in Vermont.

Officials say the goal will be to develop a preservation plan for buildings that are closely identified with Vermont’s image.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) The state received $150,000 from Preserve America, a division of the National Park Service.

The money will be used to catalogue the barns and agricultural outbuildings that dot the Vermont landscape.

Nancy Boone is with Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation.

(Boone) "I think the first step to really preserving what we have is knowing what’s there. And in the case of barns and other kinds of buildings associated with our agricultural heritage, we’re really talking about the whole Vermont landscape. It’s where we live. It’s our history embodied in buildings and it helps ground us in where we are, in knowing where we are.”

(Sneyd) Vermont has long been proud of its agricultural heritage and the lasting symbol of that heritage, the barn.

Over the past 15 years or so, the state has handed out more than $1 million in grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 apiece.

Those grants are matched by barn owners and the money helps pay for things like foundation and roof repairs.

A year-and-a-half ago the state estimated there were 30,000 barns in Vermont.

Boone says state officials realized this year how quickly the buildings can disappear when about a dozen collapsed under the weight of snow after the Valentine’s Day blizzard.

(Boone) "There are instances of barn loss occurring one by one by one throughout the state all the time. Our barns are dwindling. …It was a wakeup call. People started saying, `Wait a minute, how bad is this problem? Maybe we should take a close look at our barns and see what we have and think about what we might do to help preserve them into the future."

(Sneyd) The National Park Service will help fund the program because it believes Vermont can help show other states how to preserve their own heritage.

Chris Paolino is with the Preserve America program.

(Paolino) "The use of advanced technology and the overall census program that Vermont’s putting into place with this program is very much going to be followed and mimicked by other historic preservation opportunities.”

(Sneyd) Boone says the state will organize weekends where people will be asked to wander back roads near their own homes, counting and cataloguing barns.

The information will then be entered into an interactive database.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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