Cambridge, ME update

I didn’t intend for there to be such a long gap between my last post and this one, but I’m back to writing now.

And today I have breaking news from Cambridge, Maine!  The East Outlet Brewing Company is holding its grand opening tomorrow, following a soft opening for a few hours today.

East Outlet Brewing opening

The opening will feature a full pizza menu and, according to their Facebook page, a selection of “peanut butter stout, a saison, juicy IPA, and key lime sour ale.”  And glassblowing seems to be an essential aspect of EOB’s offerings.

I’m excited about the addition of a place to eat and socialize in Cambridge!

The Cambridge Rescue Squad

As I’ve written, my meetings in Cambridge, VT were arranged around learning about the relationship between the town and the ski resort.  After leaving Smugg’s, I drove five minutes down the road to the station for the Cambridge Rescue Squad, a volunteer group that supports the town, including the ski resort.  I met with Tracy Myers, the squad’s assistant chief.  Like Mike at Smugg’s, Tracy struck me as a person who had really found her passion in life, though their two roles are so different.

Tracy told me that there are four permanent staff members on the squad and the rest are volunteers, of which “a good handful live in town,” but the remainder live in surrounding towns.  I had thought it was astounding that the small town could staff a volunteer rescue squad.  It turns out that people from other towns will travel to be part of it!  The volunteers work 12-hour shifts, from 6:00 to 6:00, whether starting in the a.m. or the p.m., and they commit to 24 hours per month.  Tracy and the squad’s chief work three 12-hour shifts per week.

The rescue squad isn’t Tracy’s only connection to public safety.  She’s also the “second constable” for the Town of Cambridge and for nearby Johnson.  Her work in those positions is basically animal control.  She also volunteers for a rescue squad in another town. She said that at times she has had six different jobs, something of a Vermont way of life.  Her entry into the field was working security in a Connecticut casino.

Tracy, rescue squadNot surprisingly, Tracy said the work depends on the season.  In the winter, they deal with trauma experienced by skiers, and in the summer it’s people up on the hiking trails.  Then there are the more mundane cases, such as cardiac events and calls from the assisted living facility in town.  Depending on the nature of the injury or concern, the squad generally takes the patient to Copley Hospital in Morrisville, which has a strong orthopedics department, or the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, which is best for cardiac events, children, traumatic brain injuries, or major multiple trauma injuries.  Tracy said their distance from the hospitals (25-35 minutes from Copley, 45 minutes from Burlington — “quicker with sirens”) is one of their main challenges.

The squad just marked its 30-year anniversary.  It was started by citizens to support the nearest rescue squad, and a few volunteers go back to the early days.  Within three years the squad had its first ambulance and started transporting patients.  They now run two ambulances and cover all of the town of Cambridge and Smuggler’s Notch, answering about 450 calls each year.  The ambulances carry narcan, but Tracy said that the opioid epidemic isn’t much of a concern in Cambridge at this time.

(I should note here that the Cambridge Fire Department is also a volunteer force, with the town providing financial support for both units.  Security support comes from the Vermont state police.)

Some special challenges the squad faces include language barriers with the tourists.  “There’s a variety of people coming up here to ski.”  Tracy described long drives with a lot of shared “thumbs up” signs to reassure patients.  The squad has installed white boards in the ambulances for working with deaf people.

The squad stays close to the community.  They put together a barbecue, host schoolkids who want to see the ambulances, and provide observation opportunities for high school students training for careers in nursing.  “We try to do a little extra for the community.  We feel mutual appreciation and respect.”

There’s a lot more I could say about what I learned about the operation of a volunteer rescue squad, but most of all I was drawn in by Tracy’s description of a very difficult job.  She said it was especially challenging in a small town, where it’s “hard to go on a call to a house,” of a friend.  Staff “have to be compassionate yet distant at the same time.  It’s a hard balance.  Some people can’t handle the bad calls.”  They have a crisis management team to call on if needed, but she said it’s important for volunteers to have good support at home.  “The person I’m going home to needs to understand” if it has been a day with a bad call.

As part of the hiring process for her job, Tracy was asked for a statement of what she would do for the community.  The cadet program she proposed now has four cadets who go on calls and come to trainings.  “There’s nothing for kids to do in these smaller towns.  The cadet program is something to do.  They can hang around with good people.  It keeps them out of trouble.”

Tracy told me about a 22-year-old who had died despite the squad’s best efforts.  Her young son visited the rescue squad with flowers and a check for funds he had raised and that he wanted to donate.  “This town’s pretty good with little things like that.”  Over all, Tracy’s perspective on a volunteer rescue squad in a small town is that one supports the other.  “They do for us, and we do for them.”

How would you describe Cambridge?
Cambridge is generally a pretty peaceful little town.  Everybody knows everybody and there aren’t a lot of problems here.  It’s a nice little town.


A correction and a map

First, a correction.  I checked in with Mike Chait at Smuggler’s Notch and learned that the actual annual visitor count for the ski resort is 450,000.  I’ve made the correction in the post.

Second, I thought that folks who aren’t familiar with the northeastern states might like to see how the four Cambridges connect.  On this map, A is Cambridge, MA; B is Cambridge, VT; C is Cambridge, NY; and D is Cambridge, Maine.

Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine are the only three of the six New England states with a Cambridge, so I can check that group off my list.  And New York gives us the full set of northeastern Cambridges.  Maine is the farthest north of the four, but Vermont is closer to Canada.  And you can see how close both New York and Vermont are to the border between the two states.

Four Cambridges


The primary economic engine for the Town of Cambridge is the Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort, to which people often refer in both speech and writing as “Smugg’s.”  In the snow-free months, it’s possible to drive from the town and resort of Stowe to Smugg’s and Cambridge, but in the winter, the two ski resorts are separated by an impassable mountain road (the Notch that I drove through on my way in and out), and they’ve developed into very different places.  Smuggler’s Notch aims to be the perfect place to spend time — regardless of season — as a family, and everything that an individual or a family could need is included in the resort.

Mike ChaitBefore my trip, I connected with Mike Chait, the Smugg’s public relations director.  My focus was on the relationship between the resort and the town.  How do a large resort and a small town interact?  Mike estimated that the resort employs about 1000 people in the winter and about 700-800 in the summer, and that about 20% of the staff comes into town for a season.  Smugg’s also employs local kids and students from nearby universities.  And he estimated that the year-round visitor total is up around 450,000.

Mike is originally from the Chicago area and he was introduced to the passion that gave his life direction — snowboarding — as a teen.  He first came to Smugg’s as a hiking guide and then part-time ski instructor and he worked his way up to ski-school director and, for the past four years, the communications team.  He is a man who has truly found his place and his people.  I can’t include the details on all the facets of the resort that he described but, from the on-site day care, to the playgrounds, to the mountain bike training area, to the 9- and 18-hole disc golf courses, he made it all sound pretty great!

LiftsAs for the relationship between the resort and the town, he said that Jeffersonville (the village within the Town of Cambridge that is closest to the resort) especially depends on it.  The off-season weeks of spring and just before ski season act as a test on local businesses as to whether they’ll survive another year.  But the resort depends on the town, too, both for the long-time residents who work there, as well as for housing for the staff members who are in the area for a shorter time.  The resort doesn’t offer housing for most staff members, but new arrivals are pointed toward resources where they might find an apartment or a room in someone’s house.  Mike noted that housing can still be a challenge.

(The one group within the staff who are offered housing is international students from the southern hemisphere, who work at the resort during their summer, which coincides with the ski season.)

LiftThe ski area has been connected to the town since its earliest history, when Cambridge residents developed trails for their own use.  The resort now leases much of its site from the State of Vermont or local governments; as a result, the resort needs to be accountable regarding its impact on the environment.

The resort continues to be closely connected with the town, participating in fundraising events and hosting school groups.  The resort’s owner lives locally, and the resort points visitors toward the town for picking up groceries or other essentials during their stay.  The Smugg’s website highlights the company’s community giving and during my visit a team was prepping tents for a fall festival that Mike said is well attended by the local community.

I should note that my September visit fell during a quiet period at the resort: kids are back in school so there are fewer families; the leaves hadn’t quite changed color; and Smugg’s doesn’t open for skiing until November.  Nonetheless, I passed folks out for a hike and a hardy couple swimming with a small child in a heated outdoor pool.

I haven’t been asking directly about politics during my visits, but I did ask Mike.  I had been thinking about the staff, given the mix of folks in Cambridge for the long-term and for short stays.  But he answered from the perspective of skiers.  He said that skiers and other guests are diverse politically and occasionally there’s a “divisive conversation” on a ski forum or even a chair lift, but “The snow is a commonality.  When they get here, everyone is the same.”

How would you describe Cambridge?
It’s a place our employees can call home, a close-knit community.  We care about each other.  People know each other and it’s hard to keep secrets around here.

It’s not always easy to live around here in the winter but people help each other out.  Everyone gets together, no matter what drama they may have.  There are a lot of motivated hard-headed individuals who get things done. This place is magic.

The road to Cambridge, VT

Cambridge MA to VT.PNGThe route from Cambridge, MA to Cambridge, VT isn’t quite as simple as it was for my NY and Maine visits when I could drive U.S. highways almost all the way, but it’s still not too complicated.  Despite continuous rain in New Hampshire, the skies brightened after I crossed the border into VT.   Once off Route 89, I went through Waterbury and Stowe (useful for context on the ski world).  Cambridge, VT is about a half hour northeast of Burlington, and about the same distance from the border with Canada.  There might be a stoplight in town, but I never saw it.

Both coming and going, I drove through Smuggler’s Notch, a mountain pass that is closed in the winter and that separates Stowe from Cambridge.  I would describe the road as a series of sharp turns separated by short stretches of straightaway, until it gets serious and it’s one hairpin turn after another.  I stopped a few times for the scenery on the trip home.  Here’s the point that turns out to be the highest on the road.

The Notch

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was trying to focus my visits on places with a clear “Cambridgeness.”  Cambridge, VT is somewhat complicated in that regard.  The Town of Cambridge includes two incorporated villages, Cambridge and Jeffersonville, but most of the population of the Town isn’t included in a village.

Inn Sign

I stayed in Jeffersonville’s historic Smuggler’s Notch Inn (dating to 1790), but I made sure to visit the center of the Village of Cambridge, too.  Both areas have stores that sell the essentials and several people told me that they depend only on the local shops when they can’t or don’t want to travel to supermarkets in other towns.

Vermont is, in general a super-scenic place, between the mountains and the old New England towns.  Here are a few pix from the trip.

Smugglers Notch Inn
Smuggler’s Notch Inn, est. 1790
VT scenery
The view from the edge of town.
Covered Bridge
Gates Farm Covered Bridge in the Village of Cambridge, built in 1897.
Jeffersonville Church.png
Jeffersonville church at sunset.

After Cambridge, Vermont

I spent last Thursday and Friday in Vermont and, while I sift through pages and pages of notes, I thought I’d share some higher-level observations that are starting to emerge from my travels.

First, people have been incredibly nice and generous with their time.  I’ve chewed up hours and hours of the work day in offices and stores in all three Cambridges.  No one has seemed irritated at my questions or the disruption.

Second, I never expected to have so many conversations about wastewater treatment.

Also, I never expected so many conversations about broadband, but I should have.  These are rural communities.

Besides wastewater and broadband, a theme that I’ve thought about a lot is community — how do we build community, whether we live among 500 or 100,000 fellow residents?

Last, coming from the 100,000+ Cambridge, I have been surprised how very different the Cambridges in NY, ME, and VT have been.  It isn’t simply that a town with four times the population has four times the stores.

More details soon.  For now:

Cambridge Village, VT


Smuggler’s Notch tomorrow

I’m heading up to Vermont tomorrow, and I’m going to start my visit to Cambridge with a stop at Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort.  I’ll be asking about how a town of about 3,700 people can support a large tourist operation.  The following day I’ll meet with two of the town’s leaders.  In between, I’ll learn as much as I can about the town, and the village of Cambridge tucked in its borders.

Meanwhile, I want to let readers know that there’s an easy way to ensure you see new posts.  From the blog site, you can enter your email address to receive posts by email.  On a computer, you should see the sign-up form to the right of this post, under the heading “Follow Our Cambridge.”

On a phone, you’ll be looking for the “Follow” icon down at the very bottom of the screen.

I’ve signed up myself, and I can guarantee you won’t receive any other emails from me or from WordPress (the blog platform).  Only the posts.  And I’ll be honest, there won’t be more than a couple of posts in most weeks.

Now I need to finish getting ready to travel.  I look forward to reporting back.

Next Cambridge: Vermont

Two weeks ago, I sat down to consider where this blog might be going (both literally and figuratively).  Would I really visit 30 Cambridges?  Are there really 30 Cambridges to visit?

I decided that, lacking infinite time, I could only focus on towns/cities/villages that have a Cambridgeness to them, and it turns out that quite a few of the Cambridges that Google found for me don’t meet that basic criterion.  There are place names that no longer have a population living there (three “extinct” or “ghost” towns), six commercial subdivisions or developments called Cambridge that are part of another town, and four administrative areas with limited scope because they’re part of another town.  That leaves a total of 16 Cambridges, including the one I live in and those I’ve already visited.  (Or maybe only 15.  The jury is still out on Pennsylvania.  Does Cambridge Springs count?)

Next, I considered where to go next.  Though it would be ideal to visit a Cambridge further in the center of the country (Ohio or Illinois, for example), I decided that I would complete the New England Cambridges first.  Next week, I’ll be off to Vermont.

And, just as I did in New York, I’ll be visiting two Vermont Cambridges at the same time.  There’s a Village of Cambridge, which is fully included in the Town of Cambridge.  I’ll be meeting with the folks who run the town, but I’ll also explore how the village and the town fit together.

Though Cambridge, VT, with fewer than 3700 residents, could be described as a small town, it has one interesting and major difference from those in NY and Maine: a large employer.  Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort is in the town (though not the village) and I’m looking forward to learning more about its impact.

Here are the numbers from Vermont, with Massachusetts for comparison.  The comparison data for the four Cambridges I’ve looked at so far can be found here.

Massachusetts Vermont
City/town City Town, which includes a Village of Cambridge
Nickname for residents Cantabridgians ?
Zip code(s) 02138 to 02142 05444
Year Founded 1630 1781
Named for Cambridge University Cambridge University
2010 Census 105,162 3659 (with 236 in the village)
Area (square miles) 7.1 63.7
Population Density/square mile 16,355 57
Median Age 31 36
Population breakdown (percent)
Under 18 13.3 24.4
18 to 24 21.2 7.6
25 to 44 38.6 35.9
45 to 64 17.8 23.6
65 or older 9.2 8.6
Percent White 67 96.5
Median Income $47,979 $44,950
Elevation (feet) 40 758
Miles to an ocean (approximately, as crow flies) 3 147
Distance to Cambridge, MA (Shortest driving distance, in miles) 0 222


The police perspective, Cambridge, NY

While I was visiting with Cambridge, NY Mayor Carman Bogle, she introduced me to the chief of the police department, Sergeant Robert Danko.  I didn’t have an appointment, but Sgt. Danko graciously made time for me after Mayor Bogle and I finished our conversation.  The rest of the town offices had closed and Sgt. Danko was alone in the police office.

I expected that police work would be an area of stark contrast among the Cambridges.  In the end, I found many differences, but also some similarities.

To start, just as the Village of Cambridge shares administrative roles with the Towns of Cambridge and White Creek, the Cambridge-Greenwich Police Department is shared by the two villages.  And they, in turn, receive additional support from the Washington County Sheriff.  There is coordination between the two forces, and the connection gives the village police a broader perspective, such as on current police techniques, than they could develop on their own.  Sgt Danko

I started by asking Sgt. Danko what is going well for Cambridge Police.  “We’re the true essence of a small town police department.  Everybody knows everybody.  People are more comfortable when they know the person in a uniform.”  Community policing would seem to be inherent in working in a small community, where each police officer will likely know many of the villagers. He described policing the village as “not too chaotic.  We have our issues, but they’re not overwhelming.”

Sgt. Danko, who started his career with the village police force but later worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for three years, returned to the village in 2018.  He said that there’s a “big difference” working for the Sheriff’s Office.  It’s “not as intimate as working in a village.  People here are not so intimidated by interactions with the police.”  He said that officers with the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t usually have as close a relationship with the community.  “We tried, but it’s harder to do.”

Among current issues for the Cambridge police are changes to New York State law that Sgt. Danko described as “more criminal friendly.”  (For example, the state is raising the age at which individuals will automatically be charged as adults to 18.)  “It’s a learning curve and a process for us” to adapt to the changes, he said.

A challenge that Cambridge, MA, NY, and ME all share is the opioid epidemic, and this is one of the areas where the village police force works with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.  Sgt. Danko said of heroin that, “People are selling it here, trafficking it here, and overdosing here.”  With the small communities in Washington County, a regional approach is needed.

While I was meeting with Sgt. Danko, we were joined by a stream of lost drivers.  A utility pole had fallen across one of the roads and drivers were confused about how to reach their destination.  He drew maps and provided instructions to each visitor.  Soon enough, I could give the directions myself, but as the detour involved multiple twists and turns (left at the stoplight, right at the stop sign), I thought it best to leave the directing to Sgt. Danko and I went on my way.

How would you describe Cambridge?
It’s quaint.  It’s active but not too active — the perfect balance of village life, quiet enough that it’s not overbearing.

The police perspective, Cambridge, MA

Today’s post is a written Q&A with Branville Bard, Commissioner of the Cambridge, MA police department.  Though I see Commissioner Bard reasonably frequently, I had asked him earlier for the Q&A by email to help get the blog going.

Later this week, I’ll share the conversation I had with the police chief in Cambridge, NY.  As I move forward in considering what links and distinguishes the Cambridges, I hope to provide more of these side-by-side reflections, as I’ve also done with the mayors (or those at the top of the government with other titles).

How would you describe Cambridge?
Cambridge, Massachusetts is a unique community with a strong mix of cultural, demographic and social diversity, intellectual vitality and technological innovation. It is located across the Charles River from Boston and home to world-renowned educational institutions (Harvard and MIT) and numerous high-tech and bio-tech companies.

Commissioner Bard
Photo courtesy of City of Cambridge website.

What is currently going well in Cambridge, from a police perspective?
We are currently in a time period where crime is at or near record lows, the Department is highly engaged and rooted within the community, and residents believe that the City is a safe place to live. We also continue to revamp our organization in a way that goes beyond traditional policing to best meet and serve the evolving needs of the City.

What issues currently worry you, from a police perspective?
Since 2005, the number of serious violent crimes in Cambridge has nearly been cut in half. However, the number of overdose calls for service has more than doubled, while psychiatric calls for service have increased more than 70 percent. Mental health crises are a very significant issue that need to and are being addressed in a collaborative way with our various community partners.

On a related topic, I am also very concerned about the troubling trend of officers who have taken their own lives across the country. Officers spend so much of their days assisting others, but before they can help the people they serve, they need to first help themselves. Officers need to understand that there is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources that are available inside and outside of a department.

What do you predict for policing in Cambridge 20 years from now?
The demands of policing are drastically changing, particularly here in Cambridge. It is my hope that national criminal justice reform will lead to an environment that breaks the cycle of crime for those individuals who are frequently incarcerated for substance abuse and mental health-related crimes. Ideally, we will have developed more established collaborations with public health providers and ensure those suffering receive the short and long-term services that will enable them to once again become productive contributors to society.