WILTON — An effort to revitalize downtown Wilton took another step forward Tuesday as a group of citizens and town officials walked the streets seeing the town through new eyes.

The walking audit progressed from the foot of Wilson Lake along Main Street up to the intersection with Route 156, said Angela Werner, the Wilton Group communications chair, who along with other members joined Town Manager Rhonda Irish and Joan Walton from Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments to look at how a visitor might view the downtown area, she said.

Walton discussed what makes a walkable town and what makes for a pleasant visit and how to lure people to leave their cars at home and walk downtown, Werner said.

After the presentation, Werner said it was interesting how people observed new things. For example, someone remarked that informational signs near the boat landing spoil the view of the lake. They have to be there, but many never noticed them before, she said.

Some of the positives pointed out by Walton included the fact that the downtown area had anchors such as the post office and hardware and grocery stores to bring people downtown. The sidewalks are also in good shape, Wegner said.

Walton also suggested the town, as a long term goal, could consider relocating the town office to the downtown, keeping services within a comfortable walking distance.

The group also noticed there is a public parking lot near downtown but no signs to point drivers there.

Walton also pointed out that from a car, front-facing signs above businesses are visible, but walkers can’t tell what kind of business they are until arriving in front of them. She encouraged the group to think about how people coming into town might view it, Wegner said.

More signs, detailed parking around the boat ramp and where to place a dog-clean-up station purchased by Friends of Wilson Lake were discussed as affordable, practical fixes that could be done, Wegner said.

Irish initiated the audit with the intent to share the information with a planner who would be hired if voters accept a $10,000 Community Development Block Grant during a special town meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at the town office.

The grant would provide a means to plan for and look at economic development, and low to moderate housing needs in the downtown area.

Also, the Wilton Group is taking a look at what can be done to make the town more appealing, Wegner said. With the loss of manufacturing in Wilton, making the downtown more appealing is a draw for new businesses to locate here, she said.

Members of the Wilton Group recently attended a “Revitalizing Maine Communities” conference held by he Maine Development Foundation. They are trying to share the information they learned with Wilton residents.

One of the most exciting things learned, she said, is that there are obscure funding activities and grants available that people don’t know about. With a little work spent in the application process, the competition is limited because people aren’t aware or don’t want to do the work.

“No one wants their taxes to rise, but how does the town actually pay for improvements?” she asked. “It could be possible to do them and pay for them.”

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