Camp Meade and the town of Middlesex are partnering to implement a $20,000 Better Places grant to develop scenic overlooks along a planned river walk on the Winooski on land owned by Camp Meade’s parent company Planetary Matters.
The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Better Places partners awarded the grants to help communities reimagine and reopen public spaces and to help with placemaking.
Russ Bennett, one of the three Planetary Matters partners, said that he and his partners Alan Newman and Mike Pelcher will initially create two, but ultimately four, overlooks along the bank above the river and accessed from the green at Camp Meade.
Planetary Matters owns the blue house that adjoins the Camp Meade property on the south side as well as the Why Art house that abuts it on the north side. The Winooski River overlooks will be publicly accessible and will be connected to a new trail system. Safety and directional signage will be created and installed. Camp Meade has river frontage stretching northeast from the falls below the Green Mountain Power dam. The overlooks are sited along the planned Winooski Riverwalk Trail outlined in the Middlesex Walkable Village Study (2020).
Bennett said that Planetary Matters has worked cooperatively with Middlesex on planning and to optimize the properties as an important community gathering and economic engine. Through cooperative planning with the town and investments by the property owners, the Camp Meade site itself has become an important community gathering and economic center.
Since purchasing the property (which also hosts Red Hen Bakery) in 2018, the Planetary Matters partners have worked to create a privately-owned, public gathering space with regular offerings on the green of music, arts, community, food, fitness classes and more.
The partners’ 2019 purchase of the blue house brought new life to a building that was closely connected to Camp Meade when it was home of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The house, known as the LaCount house as well as the Seaver house was built by the Seaver family in 1930, several years after the flood of 1927. When it was built there was a post office and general store on the first floor which was roughly across from the former train station. The store served Camp Meade’s CCC members. The Seavers lived upstairs.
Members of the LaCount family lived there for 50 years. They raised their three sons there. When they purchased the property, they converted the building to a single-family residence and closed off the front door and put windows in.
Today the first floor has an apartment and a retail space that is occupied by Diego’s Oddities which is owned by Jenny Perez. Diego’s Oddities features collectibles as well as unique organic fruit smoothies and other libations. The upstairs still features a large three-bedroom apartment with separate kitchen, dining room and living room.
With the addition of Diego’s Oddities, there is now commercial and community activity along a significant stretch of this section of Middlesex. This month, even more activity gets underway with the resumption of Friday night pizza on the green as well as regular fitness and other classes on the green.
Stay tuned for more events this spring and summer with the Harwood Union musical taking place in plein air next weekend, a visit from Bread and Puppet, a veteran’s town hall and more.
Visit www.Campmeade.today for more information.