A late afternoon visitor to Fiskdale.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter Thinking

The backyard in Fiskdale.
am not going to state the obvious.  After a while one becomes either immune to those kind of observations, or excessively hostile, so I will just share my thoughts.  That's what I do.

Here I go.

What the hell is happening with our weather?!

Did I go to sleep in Fiskdale and wake up in Anchorage?  No, because they've only received 20 inches of snow this winter.  Is our weather permanently changing to this degree?  It will be mid June before the snowbanks at Stop & Shop are gone.

I wrote on Facebook this morning that I am thankful for much in life, and when Mary told me it was -8.7 f at 6:00 this morning I added indoor plumbing to the list.  I also want to add insulated gloves, and boots, ear muffs, Thinsulate ® in any garment, a car that will start on the coldest of days, ergonomically correct snow shovels, and snow blowers.  Snow blowers may not top the list, but my life has been made so much easier thanks to Arthur Sicard, the snow blowers inventor.

Our driveway is not that long.  Twenty feet from garage door to street, but it is double-wide, and one side runs up along the garage for another 20 feet.  Still, not a massive driveway.  The thing that makes our driveway a challenge is it is on Route 148, and the plow drivers take pride in keeping the road cleared from edge to edge.  This means more snow berms to get through at the end of the driveway, more often.  Now, the road might not be scraped to pavement like other roads in town, but it is wide.  The town also doesn't like to salt the hill coming up from Route 20 causing all sorts of havoc, but the road is wide, and our snow blower lives to clear out the front of our driveway a half dozen times each storm.

The mailbox is still standing.
I am not complaining at all.  This season our mailbox has survived the plow drivers wrath.  I marked the edge of our lawn with six foot orange stakes.  I am sure they have helped guide the plow.

This unprecedented winters snowfall has affected all of our lives in ways we could never foresee, and it is only February 16.

We had the house insulated this past fall, and so far we have been a lot more comfortable.  The other day I added some weather stripping strips along the front and side door.  They are a bit snug, and it is like popping open a Tupperware lid to enter the house now.  Which reminds me, I promised Mary I would adjust them so she won't have to throw her self at the door to get in the house again.

I say the last of the snow piles will be here through April.  Maybe a bit longer.  The next season will depend on sump pumps, and wet vacs.

Stay warm, and dry.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Here We Go Again

A few years ago there was a proposal for a sports complex on Old Route 15, Haynes Street.  The complex would have playing fields, a covered sports field, a canoe launch along the river, and facilities to support the complex.

But, there were problems.  One of the problems was there was not any town water or sewer in the proposed area, and that meant wells, and a vast septic system would be necessary.  Seems like an obstacle worth overcoming since many places don't have town services, but apparently on this plot of land it wouldn't work, and there would be no town supplied services along Route 15.

When I drive down Route 15, and see all the vacant land, I wonder what it would look like today if the complex had gone forward.  Would it be built up with complimentary businesses?  Would one of the top five interstate highway junctions in New England finally be fully utilized, and how would the increased business affect our town?

That, we will never know.  The project was scrapped, and Sturbridge went on living as a Massachusetts town from 1955 wishing it was still 1738.  Cripes, the building of Walmart caused more people in town to have convulsions than a laser light show at a rave.

Sturbridge has a very hard time with change.

Today,  there is a proposal to construct an "action sports megaplex"  off Route 49 along the Charlton /  Sturbridge frontier, and at this point in the approval process with the Town of Charlton, and Sturbridge, the ground is already beginning to shake.

The complex is proposed to be built in five phases.  The first phase would be a campground, motocross park, and a drag strip.  I think that a phrase other than "drag strip" could have been used.  Drag strip conjures up all sorts of images of loud, fast cars, grease and oil, the "Pink Ladies" of "Grease", enthusiastic fans, tires burning out into clouds of blue smoke, and fried foods.

You know, a drag strip.

Ronald Charrette, a former Charlton selectman said, "

"This project affects the quality of life for the residents of Charlton and Sturbridge in equal measures," Ronald Charette said. "This racetrack, this motocross track, this drag strip that they are proposing affects all of our lives."

The idea of a racing venue involving internal combustion engines near ones home can fluster the heck out of some folks, and may  just be enough to get the citizens all riled up with their pitchforks, and torches at a Planning Board meeting.

This "megaplex" is five phases, and the racing is only the first phase.  In Phase two they propose football, and soccer fields.  Phase three would be an equestrian arena, athletic and baseball fields.  Phase four is planned to be a water/extreme sports park , and amphitheater, and finally, in Phase five, there will be places to feed, and lodge, all those people playing outside.

Can't wait for the anti-horse, and water park demonstrators to show up.

In the meantime, the ice skating rink on the town common is now open.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

They Just Like To Dot The I's, Cross the T's, Loop The J's, Coil The G's, Bump The B's, and Wiggle The S's, That's All.

Sturbridge isn't too serious about attracting new business to town.  If someone has an idea for a business, maybe a piece of land to place it on here in town, then they should consider it good retirement income, because it is going to take forever to get it approved.

The hotel project for the corner of New Boston Road, and Route 20 that was given permission to begin construction back in 2010 is only just now rounding the last bend in the approval process.

Four years.

Four years of plans, and re-plans.  Vernal pond discoveries, threatened species protection, buffer zone adjustments, size adjustments, and on and on, and on for over four years.  Now, the landowner may have contributed to the delay as well, but from what I've read, it appears that life just goes at a much slower pace here in Bugtussle than in the big city, and this project isn't on the Top Ten list for the town.  Actually, I don't think there is a Top Ten list of things to get done here in town, just a list of stuff to see about someday.

Was it all the waiting necessary?  Hard to say, I am not on any of the committee's, or boards that demanded adjustments along the way, and I am not up to speed on any of the requirements the town insisted on to get this far.  However, I do own a calendar, and I am well adept at reading it, and my calendar has indicated that it has taken a very long time to get this far in the project.   It took four years to reduce the project by 1.4 acres, and .35 acres of pervious area.

The landscape plan for the area surrounding the proposed hotel is going to have 88 trees, 200 shrubs, over 500 perennials including ground covers, and grasses.  This is a pretty extensive plan.  Although, the actual layout has not been shared, it must need a bit of a tweak since the Planning Board feels it could be done better.  Apparently, the plan is not specific enough for the Planning Board.

They know best.

They want to be sure that this corner business is attractive to the eye for folks living in town, and those coming from all over the world.  I like the way they think, but I also think at this point in the process, and it being  over two years since the old hotel was torn down, and the ground has been left looking like a playground in Chernobyl, that a daisy in a milk carton would make the site look 100 % better.

Simple Rule # 23:  When there is no urgency felt by those making decisions, then decisions will be made without any urgency attached.

 Is four years a bit long to get to this point?  Probably.  Would the process moved faster in another community?  Only if there was an urgency to attract new business, get it up and running ASAP without compromise, and create a welcoming atmosphere to attract other businesses.

The current plan is to begin hotel construction in the spring if the current plans pass muster with the Conservation Commission, and the Planning Board in a few weeks.  Drainage is the next topic.

I guess the bottom line is that a new facility is coming to town eventually, and it replaced the old American Motor Inn that desperately needed to come down, and, it will be nice to see a new facility welcoming those that come into town off of Exit 3b.  Visitors will smile when they drive down Route 20, and look around them, and see that not much more has changed over the past 10 to 15 years.   I guess that is why most visitors come, to experience the history, and ambiance in a history loving town where time doesn't really stand still, it just moseys real slow.

Real slow.

Just as nature supposedly abhors a vacuum, Sturbridge isn't too fond of change, especially fast change.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Belief, Reality, and Perspective: Weapons Against Father Time

My uncle celebrated his 90th birthday on Saturday.  Ninety years on this planet is a heck of a milestone.  We gathered at the local American Legion, in Medfield,  to celebrate, and to recognize Uncle Tony for his 90 years of giving to others.  Governor Patrick proclaimed the day in my uncles honor, as did his hometown, and the legislature passed a resolution marking his day as well. The recognition was so well deserved.  A lot of recognition for a quiet man that loves to smile, live life, and family.

Before all the official recognition had begun, it was the more intimate form of recognition that I was having issues with.  Relatives I have not seen in 35 years were there, and although we were all fairly close as kids, I barely recognized them now.  I did manage to connect the faces with the names from my past after a lot of uncomfortable staring.  Recognizing their children was impossible.

I scanned the hall, and attempted to identify the faces that hung under the graying, and gray hair.  I saw cousins wearing sweaters, and Dockers with their belts hiked up to their nipple line.  It seemed that it was just  few months ago that jeans, and a work shirt would have once been the ensemble of the day.  One thing didn't change, they still drank their Bud from the bottle.  Somethings are just instinctual.

The hair was more dyed, gray, and sparse;  the faces showed thirty five years of added character.  The changes, hardly noticeable when seen over the years on a more frequent basis, only announced that not only was Uncle Tony older, but the celebrants were that much older, too.

A damn lot older.

Cripes, we all had become that sixty year old we used to think was synonymous with  the end of life when we were twenty-five.

How the hell  did this happen?  Just a few months ago it was 1982, and I was singing along to Survivor's  "Eye of the Tiger", and now I was standing in the middle of an American Legion Hall with a bunch of old people that insisted they were my cousins.

The realization that one is not only getting older, but is old, doesn't just come with ones first invitation to join AARP at fifty, it comes all along the the way, too.  All those little bothers like getting out of the car a little slower, popping a couple of Aleve after spending the morning working in the yard,  changing glasses in order to read a text on the phone, and then changing them again when you want to go back to watching Jimmy Fallon, tell us that something is up.  If we accept things as just life, we'll do fine, but if we write off every wrinkle, ache, set of lost car keys, forgotten items at the store, missing hairs, teeth, as being old, then we will be old.

The mind is a neat thing, if you tell it something that you believe in, it responds in kind.  Acting ones age is not always the best advice, being how one feels is far better.

I'm not old.  I am aging, though.    I'm younger than Uncle Tony, but I'm not young, either.  This is my reality, and it is essential in moving forward without getting all hung up on what I used to do better than I do now.  I listen to Top 40, and always have.  I work with people less than half my age, and enjoy it a lot.  I still wear jeans.

What's in my mind is so much younger than what's in my mirror.

Staying young has little to do with the date on the calendar, but everything to do with what is on your mind.  If you choose to live old, chances are you will be, but if you choose to age, like wine, then you will most definitely become better than you are now.

I want to live to be 90 like my Uncle Tony, and I am working on being fifty when I get there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rail Initiative Meeting 11/19 At Union Station

For those interested in learning more about rail service options, and improvements, and how it could affect us locally.  This would be a great place to learn if it was possible for a train station that would be accessible for Sturbridge residents.


Jill Barrett

Senior Project Manager
FHI | Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc.
Innovative Planning, Better Communities
416 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT 06103
Main: 860-247-7200 | Direct: 860-570-0740 | Mobile: 860-539-2038