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Vermont by Design | Why is a global landscape business based in Saxtons River?

Written by Kim Asch on . Posted in Entrepreneurs, Outdoor Rec and Nature

In 2004, Julie Moir Messervy, a prominent figure in the esoteric realm of high-end design, uprooted from the Boston area and moved her business to a speck on the map called Saxtons River, Vermont. The decision was a gamble — she was already well established where she was, with a client list that included Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and celebrity cellist Yo-Yo Ma — but the chance to live in Vermont’s open spaces and natural beauty seemed worth the risk.

Julie Moir Messervy, second from right, at work in Saxtons River with members of the creative team at Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio Inc. Photograph by Ken Burris.

Messervy, who was 53 at the time, had raised three children with her first husband in bustling Wellesley, Massachusetts, writing landscape books and drawing designs at her dining room table while tending to her family, in the latter years as a single mom. Now that the kids were launched, she told her second husband, longtime Vermonter Steve Jonas, that she would relocate so they could make a rural home together. “I had lived in cities and I had lived in suburbs, but I had never lived in the country,” she says. “I realized that a landscape designer should learn the real fundamentals of living close to the land.”

Together, Messervy and Jonas toured southern

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Engine Light Flashing | Changing times hit snowmobiling

Written by Matt Crawford on . Posted in Outdoor Rec and Nature

This copyrighted article appears in the Winter 2014−15 issue of Vermont Life magazine. 

snowy Saturday will come this winter when one of the toughest tables to reserve in all of Vermont’s dining establishments will be in a rustic little structure near Walden Mountain. The walls are particleboard. Ketchup and mustard come in color-coded plastic containers. The napkins are paper. There’s not a sommelier, sous chef or valet on staff. The menu can best be described as “1950s drive-in” — burgers and fries, cheesesteaks and hot dogs. Hit it early enough, and there’s plenty of homemade zucchini relish to be had.

Situated in the hills just west of Lyndonville, The Coles Pond Sledders Cook Shack sits smack-dab on a snowmobile trail. Location, of course, is key to its success. It’s open for just a few months of the year and fills its 16-seat capacity on those weekend days when it’s snowy and cold and an estimated 00 snowmobiles zip by on their way to Hardwick or to a nearby lookout that offers stunning views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

High winds prevented jumpers from going too big, but the crowd of about 150 people were impressed during an event sponsored by the Barre Town Thunder Chickens. Photograph by Bear Cieri.

High winds prevented jumpers from going too big, but the crowd of about 150 people were impressed during an event sponsored by the Barre Town Thunder Chickens. Photograph by Bear Cieri.

“We get fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends — entire families that stop in here for something to eat,” said George Peak of Walden, operator of the Cook Shack. “I like to think the food is part of the reason, but the reality is all those people come here to be part of something.”

A mix of adventure travel, outdoor exploration and social event, snowmobiling sees about 10 percent of Vermonters ride each winter, plus thousands more who come here from out of state to take part. Many businesses are along for the ride — hotels, gas stations, machine dealerships, clothing retailers, mechanics and restaurants — to the tune of an estimated $350 million a year generated for the state economy.

Yet, over little more than a decade, the number of participants has shown a steep decline. In the winter of 2002–2003, membership in the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers stood at about 45,000. By last year, the number had dropped to about 23,000, a plunge of almost 50 percent.

What happened?

As a winter tradition in Vermont, snowmobiling, in historical terms, is relatively new, and holds a tenuous place in the state’s imagination. If Vermont recreation had a Mount Rushmore, snowmobiling would not be on it. Hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, cycling — all for various reasons connect more directly to Vermont’s identity, even though snow machines have been on the landscape, starting as backwoods workhorses, since the 1930s. It wasn’t until the late 1950s, when factories started manufacturing smaller gas-powered engines, that the first modern-day snowmobiles began to take shape. In the cultural backdrop of the time, with the emphasis on muscle cars, drag racing and powerboats, snow machines were a natural fit as a new recreational pursuit, and a boom time began.

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Summer in Vermont Photo Contest

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Outdoor Rec and Nature, Way of (Vermont) Life, Web Exclusives

In the July edition of the Vermont Life eNews, we asked you to show us what summer in Vermont means to you. Our inbox was filled with summery scenes from across the state. Our winner was Pam Robinson of Strafford, who photographed her 13-year-old daughter, Megan, sitting with their two dogs, Duncan and Abby. “This photo shows our favorite place in my hometown of Strafford,” Pam said. “We go here each season to let out a huge sigh, and breath in the beauty of the state!” We liked the photo because it shows a view that is uniquely Vermont, and relaxing in the tall grass with friends is one of summer’s must underrated joys.

Here’s the winning photograph …

megan, duncan abby LOK for VT life


And here are selected runners up. Thank you to everyone who entered!

Blossom, a Simmental calf in Springfield, Vt. Photo by JoAnn Stak Bregnard.

Burlington Waterfront, photo by Marshal Distel.


Tractor parked behind rose bush in Pawlet, photo by Ed Cleveland.


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