Even though many local people may not even know it exists, some folks in Rockingham are looking at The Island in Bellows Falls as the center for a bright future for the community.
The Island? In Bellows Falls? Yes. With the Connecticut River on one side and the historic Bellows Falls Canal on the other, The Island is a several-acre chunk of real estate that contains the railroad station, pre-Columbus Native American petroglyphs, the Waypoint Visitors Center, several huge mill buildings left over from the town's industrial heyday, the hydro-electric dam, amazing views of the Connecticut River's Great Falls and a handful of other businesses like Cota and Cota, The Oh Zone, the NAPA auto parts store and others.
The Island has tremendous potential for future development, according to several local officials and private citizens who have been interested in finding ways to develop the property's potential. A feasibility study is underway to get an overview of what buildings are available on The Island and their condition.
One thing is certain, the area is underutilized.
At one time, Bellows Falls was the hub of very active paper making, dairy and cheesemaking industries. Many of those buildings remain in fairly good condition today, and two of the ideas being considered are making The Island an educational center for either the alternative and green energy fields, or a culinary arts school - or perhaps some combination of both.
Energy seems a natural fit for Bellows Falls according to discussions this writer had with Rockingham resident Michael Spaulding and Interim Municipal Manager Francis Walsh.
Rockingham is home to the TransCanada Hydroelectric Dam, one of a series of several hydropower dams in the upper Connecticut River watershed. The village also sits on a favorable geo-thermal site, and there has been some study done about tapping into this geothermal source for downtown energy needs.
With future energy needs one of the most pressing issues of this century, both Spaulding and Walsh spoke of what an advantage it would be for the town to become a center for engineering education in the alternative and green energy fields.
Exactly what plans will be developed remains to be seen, but the Green Mountain Outlook will keep its readers well informed about this issue, crucial to the future of the greater Rockingham community.