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, December 31, 2007

A Great Comment

I received a comment today under the recent posting "..And the Envelope, Please..." It was from the towns tree warden ,Tom Chamberland. The comment was full of his observations of the town over the years. It was very insightful. Well, as I was writing to respond to him I found myself blathering on forever, so I thought instead of doing it in the comment section, I'd blather here.

I've included Tom's comment below.

Yes I think you have struck a nerve as I think its interesting how things sometimes come back around, and just MAYBE you have started something back around. In the past before the word "eco tourism" was coined OSV partnered with the Host (was it the Sheraton back then?) for cross country ski trails on what is now the Town’s OSV property. Then we had the Heritage Festival that lasted for 10 years, following a very successful 250th anniversary celebration,(history) and more recently the short lived First Night (special event). All have come and gone for two simple reasons: Lack of volunteers’ time, and financial support challenges (time and $).
I know that running a successful program over the long haul is difficult and challenging. People loose interest, financial interests move on, and without a broad based community support (and that must include several commercial sponsors) any activity no matter how well intentioned, will eventually fail.
Unfortunately for Sturbridge, I believe the majority of residents could care less about promoting the town in the ways you have suggested. Maybe I can be proven wrong, but from what I've seen happen in Sturbridge over the years, and even happening today, like the Firefighters no longer sponsoring Ham and Bean Dinners, or the Sturbridge Democratic party no longer hosting a family style roast beef dinner (its now wine and cheese, I believe?) to even just 10 residents showing up for two different volunteer days to work on trails. Just maybe this forum will bring some new involvement in current initiatives, like our volunteer trail days, or new members and support for Opacum, and even I might find some time to help...

---Tom Chamberland


Good to hear from you. I enjoy your writings about our local trees and plant life in the local media.

I see your point, we had many things in town at one time, but over the years, volunteers,money, and interest waned. Happens most everywhere with Spaghetti Dinners and the like. I don't think you meant to write, "any activity no matter how well intentioned, will eventually fail.", but I know what you were saying. You see, those things weren't permanent, so their days were numbered from the beginning.

Those were things that ran their course, or did not change as the population changed and times changed. The 250th Anniversary is a different animal. That was well planned, and celebrated as a one time event. Next one is the 300th, and no sense having meeting till then. But, some folks might just enjoy that.

Here's how I see things in a nutshell. You are right, things like you mentioned will run their course and fade away, or change. That's a given. But how do you make things that will last a very, very long time and have an amazing impact on us?


Permanency. We are looking at things backwards. Ham and Been Dinners, Cross Country Skiing Packages, festivals and Roast Beef dinners are wonderful things, but they are only as active as their planners are. The planners get old, move away, or grow tired without inspiring a new bunch of people. I'd like to see something more than just a "Night at the Grange" to start with. We need a solid foundation on which to build, and the dinners, and festivals, and packages will come back on their own.

We need to start by offering permanent attractions in town for the residents and tourists. The Grand Trunk Trail from Westville to Brimfield is a start. A permanent walking, and biking trail running along side the river, as I have described in previous posts would do wonders. We are off to a great start, now let's plan and finish the rest. Walkways running from Main Street to the river, and over footbridges to the trail would not only bring folks here to use the trails, but maybe take the footbridge over the river to town and do some shopping. Maybe get a lunch to-go, and picnic beside the river. Who knows, maybe a bike ride in the morning, and OSV in the afternoon?

Permanent, structural improvements like the trail, the footbridges, picnic areas, walkways, and lighting. A permanent, well designed canoe and kayak launching area on the river is also something that would do wonders. A little paddle in the morning, followed by some shopping, a meal, and maybe an overnight here in town.

Now we are becoming a "destination", and not just a calendar date.

As the numbers of people increases, the shops and restaurants will see an up tick in sales.

Now, is the time to inspire those dinners and Festivals again. The permanent things will always be there, good times and bad, they will be used, but once people know about what is here, then we can offer more. The foundation for success has been laid.

I do agree with you regarding another point you made. You wrote, , "I believe the majority of residents could care less about promoting the town". Unfortunately, it may be true, but not for
the reasons one would assume. I think it is due to mindset. See, Sturbridge has become a bedroom community of Worcester, Hartford and Boston. Most folks buy out here because the price is OK for them, we have some basic amenities, and access to the highways. I don't think that once they move into their 3/4 acre plot with the two car garage that they think about too much more than daycare and commuting. But, once they settle in, get a kid in school, meet other townspeople, they begin to actually see the town that they have chosen to live in, they see things differently. I truly believe this. It's just tapping into that new blood that is the hard part.

And, thank you, Tom, for your offer to help, even with your busy schedule. Your expertise, experience and knowledge of the town is a tremendous asset for our town. Promote things as you can, get the discussion rolling with those that can affect change, and lets make 2008 one year to remember here in Town.

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