Port Takes Shape
From the indigenous Choptank natives to contemporary watermen, our site has always been a resource on and off the water. In 1963, the site was converted into the only other deep-water port in Maryland outside of Baltimore. A 25-foot channel was dredged to create a little more than twenty acres of usable land. The terminal included a 500-foot wharf, 150-foot catwalk, and direct transshipment to railroad cars and trucks. Located only 20 nautical miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the Cambridge Port is part of the area’s historic maritime industry. Once the port of call for the Presidential Yacht, U.S.S. Potomac, and now a regular stop for American cruise Lines along their Chesapeake Bay route, the port has played a pivotal role in Cambridge’s development.
Sailwinds – A Vision for More
In response to the waning manufacturing industry, the ‘Committee 100 of Dorchester’ was formed under the leadership of local businessman, Bob Spedden, to envision a waterfront tourist destination. From those conversations, a 501(c)(3) non-profit economic development organization, Sailwinds Park, Inc.; was created. Together with the community, they crafted a plan to significantly impact Cambridge’s economics. Praised by elected officials, including Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer, the State committed resources to the project, paving the way for Cambridge Harbor.
Amid changes of elected officials and State priorities, Frank Narr, former Sailwinds Park Executive Director, and Jeff Powell, former Dorchester County Council President, worked to fund and build the Visitor Center and promote a proposal for an Amphitheater. They continued to refocus State partners on further exploration for commercial development and waterfront design of the Port property.
In the spring of 2006, the Cambridge Main Street program asked a Regional / Urban Design Assistance Team to study how the Cambridge Main Street program could advance its mission for commercial revitalization and economic enhancement of the City’s distinctive and historic core. The team was comprised of multi-disciplinary professionals with backgrounds in urban design, landscape architecture, planning, and economic development.
Waterfront 2020 Charette
In early 2009, the City launched an effort to develop an Economic Strategy. The objective of the strategic planning process was to help the citizens of Cambridge position the City for growth. This resulted in the Waterfront 2020 Charette, a grassroots public brainstorming session to update the Comprehensive Plan and help shape the future of the City’s waterfront.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
The City and Sailwinds Park Inc. acknowledged their shared goals in an MOU, one of the precursors to the formation of Cambridge Waterfront Development, Inc. (CWDI). Both entities agreed to work together to redevelop the properties along the waterfront from the Fishing Pier/Gateway to Cambridge Creek. These efforts would be consistent with the previous development plans and the Port Property transfer agreements between the City and the State of Maryland.
Then in 2020, CWDI released BCT Design Group to develop a new waterfront masterplan based on thirty-plus years of planning and two years of community engagement efforts. While BCT’s Planning staff was busy at work on the technical details of the plan, the Branding and Graphics Studio developed a brand that would balance representing the Cambridge community at large and the future Cambridge Harbor development.
Surveying the Community
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CWDI prepared a Virtual Community Presentation and survey web portal to collect responses between December 2020 – January 2021. Nearly 1,500 individual responses were received across five “Site Planning” Topics. The stats below are an example of the types of questions and responses that were asked.
CWDI selected a diverse group of locals to be a part of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) tasked with spearheading the naming and branding of the project. This group—hailing from various local private enterprises, Dorchester County tourism, and the public school system—represented and served as a barometer for what was authentically Cambridge. READ MORE
In April of 2022, a nearly finalized Conceptual Site Plan was revealed to 200+ community members during an in-person community workshop. Following the workshop was a 120-day period for virtual feedback on the updated master plan.
In a ranking of what they felt was most important, 538 survey participants believed that promoting the waterfront engagement and access was high on the list—one respondent expanded by writing, “…access to the Choptank and public boat ramp is essential to maintain the lifestyle of many citizens in Dorchester County.”
Selecting a Name
Attendees at the Community Workshop also voted on the site’s name derived from an original list of over forty options, each crafted based on research about Cambridge’s heritage and history. Through an in-person voting system, the community chose Cambridge Harbor, and in agreement, the CAC and CWDI’s board approved the name.
With over 30 years of association with the site, it was important for CWDI to retain the site’s equity in the “Sailwinds” name. “Sailwinds Park” would continue to represent the public greenspaces along the waterfront of Cambridge Harbor.
Defining Who We Are
The Cambridge Harbor brand came to life through extensive research and guidance from community members. We pored over multiple municipal reports, read and watched many historical accounts of Cambridge, and even heard firsthand accounts from the community to understand “The cultures and traditions that make us, Us!”
Our tagline, “Lured by the Water, Kept by our Heritage,” encompasses the blue-collar, maritime spirit of a city steeped in history. The water draws residents and visitors to our site, but the community’s collective cultural narrative and experiences keep us here.