Autumn in the North Cemetery.

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, November 26, 2007

We Bought a Dump, Now What?

This past September, at a Special Town Meeting, we chose to purchase a large strip of land on the south side of the Quinebaug River for $860,000.00. The land stretches all the way from Stallion Hill Road opposite the parking lot of Old Sturbridge Village to Holland Road. It is a beautiful tract of land, and well worth purchasing, but for what?

See, we still are working on the OSV land purchase, and now we have this one. Yes, I know, we are protecting it from developers. Preserving
the land for future generations. Yata yata. But, what about this generation? What excactly are we going to do with it, and how soon?

I've heard, and read, that hiking trails would be part of the towns development of the land. Great. Don't get me wrong, I like to hike/walk along the trails we have in the area. I've hit most of them. I really enjoy it, in fact, the more trails we have the happier I am, but we need something more than just trails. We need something that is so awesome that folks will drive to Sturbridge to see and use it. Much like Look Park in Northampton.

Paving the trails along the river so that strollers, bicycles and wheelchairs would have safe access is very important. If not paving, then compacted stone dust for now. Paving later. The trails also need to be planned very well to take advantage of the wonderful scenic areas along the river. Whether its bird watching along the wetlands, or looking down on to the river from high on a hill, we need to have areas constructed just for those purposes.

Next we need footbridges. At least two. One crossing the river down by the rear of Dunkin' Donuts, and the other further west crossing over the river behind the Marketplace at the Falls. If we are going to attract folks to town, even our own residents, to use the area, then we need to make sure they have access to shops and restaurants in town. The footbridges would grant this access, plus add a certain appeal to the land and river as well.

Now that we have good trails, and a couple of footbridges we need to offer the conveniences, and niceties for those using the land. Sanitary facilities are extremely important. Don't even think of building a wonderful recreation spot without considering them. They don't have to be on a sewer line, and they don't even need a septic system per say. There are systems out there just for this purpose that impact the land very little. Facilities are a must.

Now, I am not sure about just where the land ends on Holland Road. I am not sure if the land in and around the old mill on Holland Road is included on the purchase. Sorry. I haven't seen a map of the purchase, but what if it did, or what if the town purchased that old mill, then what? I can see a restaurant built along the mill pond just west of the dam. Outdoor tables along a deck looking out over the water. Shops inside the mill, and above all--parking. Lots of parking.

We have a good number of craft and antique stores in town, all very nice, and offering fine quality goods, but what about art? What about art galleries? Pottery galleries, galleries for paintings and sculpture. Art attracts a different genre of tourist. And if the galleries are owned by well known artists, or gallery owners they can actually sell themselves.

Sounds pretty nice, huh? Close your eyes. Picture it. Nice. But wait, we have a problem. You see a good portion of the land purchased is sitting on a dump. Yep. An old dumping ground is directly across the river behind the Marketplace at the Falls, and it's packed with stuff. Old stuff. Old glass, and stoneware, metal, and stoves, more glass, and more rusted metal, bottles and cans. Trash. One hundred year old trash, and lots of it. this land is going to need a complete remediation. Soil needs to be tested, a plan made for its removal, and another plan made for the lands restoration. Suddenly, $860,000.00 is not that much.

I'd like to see what the town has planned.

Oh, well.

In the meantime, we have saved a pretty piece of land along the river for the next generation to develop. After all the meetings to come regarding this tract, it'll be at least that long before it is ever used.

Please have the next generation scatter my ashes along the paved, restored trail.



  1. The Selectmen approved an amendment to the purchase and sale agreement a few weeks ago to set aside $40,000 in an escrow account to finish the work that was undertaken by the previous owner's Licensed Site Professional (LSP). This LSP estimated it would take about $20,000 to bring the property into compliance, the Town's own LSP consultant also estimated about $25,000.

    These properties are part of the Town-wide trail project that was developed in the 1990's. The idea of foot bridges is great as are composting toilets!

  2. Oh, but I wouldn't call it a dump. If you've been on the property you'll see it's beautiful!

  3. I've walked the land, and I agree, it is beautiful, and a space that must be shared with everyone.

    Just what exactly was the unfinished work left by the previous owner? I was amazed as I walked at the things dumped there over time. Old appliances are easy enough to remove, but the actual layers of antique trash over such a vast area is going to be difficult. It may require removing trees to allow equipment into the area, but if done well, the open land it leaves behind could be well used. The items I saw, just on the surface, were in the hundreds, and all from the early part of the last century. Everything from old porcelain bathroom fixtures to countless glass bottles, and glass shards. What could be below the surface six inches? A foot? Or more?

    And, then there is the things we can't see. If solid rubbish was dumped there, what about the liquids that may have been dumped there as well? If the soil turns out to be contaminated with solvents, or chemicals used in the mills, then it will all have to be be removed, or capped.

    Suddenly, $25,000.00 is just not enough. For that amount I could barely put an in-ground pool in my yard.

    Stay tuned for photographs of the area.

  4. So, what is happening to the land now? All work has stopped. Any plans? Just curious.


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