story and photo by Dot Helling
This Rocky Mountain snowbird has returned home to Vermont. I stand with one foot in Vermont, one in Colorado, not wanting to give up either, although my wanderings do make me yearn to be landed. I’ve spent a lot of time weighing the pros, cons, similarities and differences of my Durango community versus my Montpelier community, both of which extol the very unique qualities of our Central Vermont.
Both communities are primarily Anglo, well-to-do, more educated, fitter and healthier than most. Both are in the mountains, although the altitude differs significantly by many thousands of feet. Both cities are dog friendly and culturally astute. Both are tourist havens filled with vacation shopping venues and great bars and restaurants. The food choices are ethnic and diverse. Delicious burgers and homebrews are local favorites. Music venues are numerous, and the sounds are good from local talent and well-known artists. Both downtowns have a standard cinema and an alternative theater. Neither has a McDonald’s or Burger King in the downtown, although Durango has them within its city boundaries.
Both cities feature good schools and amazing libraries. The municipal leaders like to install state-of-the-art features for traffic, pedestrian and cyclist control, whether or not they work. Many in my view are expensive, frustrating, “cutesy” obstacles. In Durango there are seemingly endless curbs and medians, not designed for efficient snow removal. In Montpelier we install parklets to fill up already limited parking spaces and fake cobblestone crosswalks that are easily damaged by the plows. Both communities have traffic issues, although nothing like the concerns of downtown or interstate communities such as Los Angeles, Boston and Portland, Oregon. Both communities are beautiful.
What has changed in Montpelier since I left last fall? I immediately noticed that the streets remain the same, that there are some new “curious” people hanging around, and that the crime rate has some residents anxious. I also noticed the new fancy wood fence along the bike path in front of the Green Mountain Power station, a new workout feature on the National Life exercise path (a “wobble board”), and an increased amount of graffiti. Residents like me are a bit older and grayer. Exciting projects have popped up, such as the new policy at the Green Mount Cemetery — “Natural Decorations Only” and the Tree Board’s lining of St. Paul Street with trees that will grow into a gorgeous, cathedral-like passage. And there are those amazing Montpelier experiences that never change — the beauty of the Statehouse and its landscaping, the cherry blossoms, the Coffee Corner music morning on Thursdays. I’m happy to be home!