The path beside the Quinebaug River at Westville ca. 2002.

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time to Lend A Hand

Ninety percent of all trail work in town is done by volunteers and donations.  

Trail work day is the first "third Saturday of the month", April 19th.  We will be meeting at the River lands at 0900 - noon, with a focus on building a shed roof to store supplies,  and conducting a general cleanup of the river lands from past operations on this property.  Bring Gloves and a water bottle.  Trail Committee will be holding volunteer work days every third Saturday of the month from now through November. 

See you on the trail! 

--Tom Chamberland

A Brave New World At The Pumps

I like technology.  It is in every part of my life, and I like it lots.  If the electrical grid was ever to go down I'd be done for.

Don't rely on me to bring the human race to the next level unless it has a place to plug in.

To me, technology advancements are like a never ending Parade of Tomorrow.  I enjoy seeing how developers fit new advancements into vehicles to make them safer, and into our smart phones to make them more tools, than toys.  Yesterday, I was able to try out a new tool for the first time, and simultaneously use the new Cumberland Farms in Fiskdale on opening day.

A few weeks ago I downloaded the Cumberland Farms smart phone app "SmartPay".  The app is very clever.  When I pulled  up to the gas pump, I pulled out my phone, touched the buy gas option, entered my PIN number.  The app displayed the Cumberland Farms location I was at, and asked me to confirm the location, and enter the pump number.  Once done, the pump clears, I chose the grade of gas, and pumped it into my car.

So neat.

But, wait, there's more.

Not only I was I  able to pump gas by using the privacy of my phone, I  also saved $.10 per gallon of gas from the posted price.  Cumberland's doesn't have to pay any credit or debit card fees to the banks since the app is tied directly to my checking account like a check would be.

I also earn rewards!  Yesterday I had a FREE coke posted on the app that was mine to claim until May 2.

The smart phone app can also be used inside the store for other purchases.

Yes, I could have saved a bit more at the gas station across from Shaw's.  I use them as well, and I use the Stop & Shop gas, as well.  The rewards I get from Stop & Shop don't last more than one time at the pump, and then I have to go earn some more, by buying more at their store.  They also expire after 30 days, too.  Sturbridge Gas has a consistently low price, as does Pilot out on old Route 15, but convenience is worth a good amount as well.  Cumberland Farms is only 0.8 miles away. The gas price may not get as low as Sturbridge Gas, but at times the convenience certainly makes up for it.

Gas was posted at $3.55 at Cumberland Farms yesterday, and I paid $3.45 with my discount.  I know, I could have saved a bit more by traveling down to Pilot, as I sometimes do, but Pilot is 6 miles away from our house, and they don't have a neat app to use at the pump.

Sometimes it all about the toy, and not so much the tool.

Lowest Regular Gas Prices in the Last 36 hours
400 MA-15 & I-84
1 hour ago
365 Main St near Charlton Rd
11 hours ago
C&R Tire
649 Main St & Laflamme Ln
15 hours ago
Stop & Shop
149 Charlton Rd near Gifford Rd
20 hours ago
400 Main St & Old Sturbridge Village Rd
15 hours ago
215 Charlton Rd & Hall Rd
14 hours ago

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Along The Grand Trunk Trail

The same view as the above photo of the Grand Trunk Trail as it is seen today.  Thanks to Tom Chamberland for submitting the photo below.  He is one man that truly knows the past, present, and future of our trails in town as a ranger with the US Army Corp of Engineers, and as our local Tree Warden, Tom has been involved with all aspects of trail design, and building here in town.

So much work has been done along the Grand Trunk Trail over the past decade, or so.  From an abandoned railroad right-of-way to a recreational venue used by so many.  Mary and I have walked, and biked,  this trail, and other trails in town,  many times.  The enjoyment is free, natural, and comes with a smile back guaranty.  OK, the last part is just me being me, but if you walk the length of the trail, and don't smile at least once, then I owe you one.

Grand Trunk Trail at Westville Recreational Area in Sturbridge, MA

Photo by Tom Chamberland

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Election Thoughts

It takes sincerity, genuineness, character, and selflessness.  Age is not a component.  Knowledge is helpful, but willingness to learn is just as valuable.  And, it takes passion to be able to throw ones hat into the political ring, stay in the race, and come out the other side intact.

This happened yesterday here in town when Jacob Ryan won a seat on the Tantasqua School Committee at the the age of 18.  He graduated from Tantasqua in 2012.  Ryan would like to see a greater investment in the vocational side of Tantasqua, and a school resource officer for the district.  His age didn't stand in the way of his being being elected.  It was his  ability to successfully convince voters across party lines that he was serious about his platform.  It worked, he obtained 461 votes to the incumbents 397.

Jacob Ryan will also add a uniqueness to the school committee.  He is closer to those that use the school for its intended purpose than other members.  He has recent first hand experience on just how the school functions, and can see the needs from a perspective that only someone his age can see. From his own recent experience he is able to see just how the school committees actions affect those at the student level.   This is invaluable, and may, in fact, be a secret weapon of sorts.

Those are the age related reasons that will give Ryan a uniqueness.  The other reasons are his ability to take on a duty that most his age would not consider, and his ability to cross political lines, and convince others of his vision for change, and improvement. This is found under passion, and selflessness.

As I said, it worked.

The one year selectman's seat was won by Craig Moran over  Donald Fairbrother, 409 votes to 389. Moran's desire to run a town like a business hit a chord with many.  A town is a business, and should be run as one.  Moran is the owner of three businesses in town, and has the current business acumen needed.

Sturbridge has 6648 registered voters, and yesterday 817 of them came out to vote.  5831of those registered voters in Sturbridge did not vote.

Some were sick.  Some worked from before the polls opened, till after they closed.  Those are the only two valid reasons why a registered voter does show up at the polls on election day.

Daycare, transportation, a sick dog, waiting for the cable guy, not having time, too tired after work, not awake before work, are all excuses, not reasons, but you know that.

To vote is such a simple act.  A long time dream for too many, a dying wish for others, and a cherished action for those that have the opportunity, and take it.

Next election day, cherish the act of voting, and vote.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Most Important Reason To Have An Election

One thing I have never done as a writer is to recommend one political candidate over another at election time.  My opinion on an elected candidates actions after the election is different.  I feel that to be a successful candidate one must have integrity, good character, selflessness, and the ability to put others ahead of themselves for real reasons, not political gain.

Of course, there will always be morons that win elections that have no integrity, character, are self centered unable to think of anyone other than themselves.  We elect them because we are unaware of who they really are based on a few newspapers interviews, living room candidate meetings, and the candidates ability to BS their way through life.

BS is a skill that must be honed over a long period of time.  Some are OK at it, others are truly amazing at it.

Unfortunately, we've experienced the latter far more than the former.  The BS alarm sounded years ago, but was tuned out till the end, and by then, the damage had been done.

Today's town election offers up numerous candidates.  Many are incumbents.  I don't personally know many of the candidates.  I do know of some of the incumbents by their performance.  Others I only know through acquaintances, or from an informal word now, and again.

One thing I can say on this election day is that I believe that there is not a lot of BS this time around.  There is a good deal of character, youth, energy, and selflessness among the candidates.  There is a sincerity from the candidates to share their knowledge, and experience, from their private side, in order to make them very effective on the public side.

I wish each one of the candidates running for office today good luck, and I hope that the most qualified candidate wins.  Not only would it be a win for them, but having the best candidate elected will be a win for us, and that is the most important reason of all.