Celebrating Intervale History: Growing Up in the Intervale

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As we celebrate 30 years of the Intervale Center, we are looking back at the history of this unique land. We often talk about the period of disrepair and disuse before Will Raap founded the Intervale Center to restore the soil, clean up the land and bring farming back to the Intervale. But, as with most things, there’s more depth and nuance to the story of the Intervale in the second half of the 20th century. To learn more about what it was like in the Intervale during that time period, I sat down with Kathy LaCross, who grew up on Intervale Road.

Kathy’s parents moved to 282 Intervale Road, the current site of the agricultural complex that Intervale farms share, in 1958 and left in 1985. She spent all of her childhood here in the Intervale. Her father was a salesman for McKenzie meats, which had a piggery next to her house and a slaughterhouse facility where Gardener’s Supply Company is now. Their house was owned by McKenzie and no longer exists – it burned down in the 1990s. “I always remember my mother telling me that our house was originally across the road and came over to 282 during a flood. Not sure if that’s true or not, but that’s what she always said,” Kathy said.

“The Intervale was a great place to grow up!” Kathy and her siblings went everywhere on foot and would walk as far down as the Ethan Allen Homestead. As an adult, Kathy learned more about that history of Ethan Allen and her grandson is even named Ethan!

There were seven other families who lived on Intervale Road during that the time Kathy was growing up, and the neighborhood kids would get together to play baseball, pick blueberries, play on the railroad tracks and go sliding.

 “We had the freedom of living in the country and the convenience of living in the city. We got what a lot of kids don’t get,” Kathy said.

She also remembers seeing a lot of wildlife in the Intervale and loved interacting with the land. From berry picking, riding bikes, fishing, ice skating, snowmobiling and more, to seeing fox, deer, and muskrat, it was a place to be enjoyed and explored.

As wide open space on the edge of an urban area, the Intervale has a history of attracting problems at night.  Kathy remembers that her father was the unofficial “policeman” of their road and they never knew who was going to come to their house in the middle of the night with a problem.

Kathy recalled of Rena Calkins, the dairy farmer who lived in the Intervale Center’s current farmhouse office building, that she was shy and rarely talked. Rena would herd her cows twice a day up and down Intervale Road. If Kathy and her family wanted to get out of the Intervale at the same time, they would just have to wait until the cows got to their destination.

Kathy now lives on her own “piece of heaven” in Fairfield and works at Northfield Savings Bank as Vice President of Community Banking. Thank you for sharing your stories, Kathy!

The Intervale has come a long way in 30-50 years. Frequented by over 30,000 visitors per year who come to walk, jog, bike, ski, bird, fish, or pick up their farm share, it is now a unique green space for our community to use. Just as it was Kathy’s backyard and playground decades ago, it is now the backyard and playground of hundreds of Burlington-area residents.

Do you have feedback for us about using our trails or open space? Let us know!  

Abby Portman