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

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Let's Read the Newspaper!

The following are a few items from the local newspapers that get lost in all the other ballyhoo in town.


About 6 years ago the town built a skate board park as part of the recreation area down off Cedar Street. The intention was to give skateboarders a place to go to use their boards, do their tricks and be safe from traffic. It worked, but what people didn't consider when designing the area is that those 13 year olds that used the park 6 years ago are now 19 and 20 years old, and have been loyal users. This is a place they have always known. A comfortable and fun place. Problem is, they grow up, and even though they still love to use their board, they are a bit old to be using such a small venue designed for smaller kids. They also have other wheels now, and of course, they bring them with them.

The residents in the immediate area are overwhelmed with traffic, noise, and general buffoonery. These things go hand in hand with older teens, nothing new here. The park may need a redesign regarding parking, but should return to the days when the park first opened with a lock, and key, and specific times for its use may help. That may require an "adult" to be on site to supervise, but it is less expensive than a redesign right now. Also, parking stickers for the area should be given out. No sticker, no parking. Band aid measures at first, may hold out until a more suitable plan is devised. I think the residents need a break, and the kids still need a place to go. The residents in the area seem to be very aware of just how difficult it will be to solve this, and are willing to be as flexible as it takes to make things happen. What a change of pace. I like their attitude.

Balance, got to find the balance without calling the police 3 or 4 times a day.


Here in town we are blessed to have several fine lakes. They are wonderful wet pockets of nature located throughout the area, each with a personality of its own. The current issue is weeds. The Quaboag Quacumquasit Lakes Association asked for, and received, $22000.00 last year for maintenance of its waters on South Pond, Cedar Lake, Walker Pond, and Big Alum Pond. This year they have asked for an additional $10,000.00 from the town. The Selectmen have agreed to support this request, and this is very good. We can not let the lakes fall into the hands of the Milfoil. It will be very expensive to recover from a a total infestation of the weed.

I do feel that the $60.00 per year members fee is a bit low, and should be increased significantly to raise some of the needed funds to maintain the lakes. All those that have property that actually touches the water should pay one fee, and it should be mandatory. Other folks that have property around the lakes, but not on the water, should pay as well. The Association would need to look at all the parameters, but an increase in the yearly fee is very much needed, after all, it's only $5.00 per month now.


This one is a tough one. It involves a lot of emotion, and some common sense, too.
There is a grant available from a program entitled, "Kids Don't Float" for $5000.00 to purchase new life jackets for the Town. It is an admirable cause. I do have some thoughts on this one, though.

If we are eligible for a grant, we should apply, that's pretty much a no-brainer, however, there is more involved with this decision though.

For starters, no child that can not swim should be without a parent, or another individual that can swim when using a pool, or lake for recreational purposes. Period. No dropping a child off at neighbors house to use the pool with their "swimmies", or "bubble", and the parent splitting to get their hair done. Kid can't swim, you are there.

If a child is enrolled in swimming lessons, then it is the parents job to inquire about the size of the class, how many instructors per class, and determine if the ratio of student to instructor is safe. If there is any doubt, don't enroll them, if the parent is nervous, then don't leave.

Kids don't use life preservers when in a swimming class, and if a parent takes them to the lake for recreation, and they can't swim, then it is the parents responsibility to place inflatable "swimmies" on their arms, or some other approved flotation device on them, even if the parent is sitting on the shore and is 5 feet from them.

I don't really understand the need for the town to supply life preservers at the Town Beach. I do understand the need for rescue rings, poles, ropes, oxygen tanks, and other rescue equipment.

Before the Town commits to a "safety" intervention such as applying for this grant, they must think about what exactly is the purpose of the life preservers in relation to what they offer at the beach, and they must also not take away the parents responsibility for their child and assume it themselves. Then if the town is serious about making water recreation safe for children, they must hire the appropriate number of staff, make sure swim class sizes are a safe size, and follow up on the the above ground, and in-ground pools in town that do not meet the town bylaws regarding fences. They then must demand that the privately owned pools in town meet the standards set forth in the bylaws. Can't do one thing, and ignore the rest.

This subject has been close to my heart since 1970. That year my five year old sister drowned in a neighbors above ground pool. That incident is in part the reason I do what I do today.

So, there you have it, just a few of the topics being bandied about in the newspapers this week.


  1. Life preservers for the Summer Recreation Program is important to study, before purchasing life preservers. My kids participated in the summer rec program and enjoyed every minute of their time there. I looked to the teens, working at the rec, to entertain my kids, whether it be with arts and crafts, or organizing a ping pong tournament. I felt it was my responsibility to be sure that my children were safe, and this is why I did not leave them. If the rec program offered life preservers I still would not have left my children. These are hot summer days, and the idea of spending the time wrapped in a life preserver doesn’t make sense. Kids will end up dropping of heat exhaustion, or dehydration from sweating. Also, a life preserver will not protect a child from getting hit by a car, or getting picked up by a stranger. The most important life preserver in a child’s life is his/her parent. And even a parent can't always protect a child from horrible accidents.

  2. I think the Town will have to draft a tightly crafted legal document stating that the life preservers are optional and the Recreation assistants are in no way responsible of being sure these preservers are in use. These are teenagers who hold a summer job to entertain kids, through crafts, sports, scavenger hunts, etc. It would not be fair to add the job of parenting to their job description, for the minimum wage that they earn.

  3. As far as the skate park goes I recall when it was rebuilt 6 years ago the people who came forward with the proposal stated no tax money would be used for it. The kids would fund raise and help build it to show ownership and therefore not trash it. Well it has not worked. If the skaters can not behave then close it down. Where are the original builders of the park why are they not stepping in to help? The Town should not pay a monitor for the park the skate park should. It is an attractive nuisance as it stands now. The skaters need to take responsibility for their actions.

  4. Your article on the lakes might have some misinformation.South Pond was not part of the $22,000.00 voted last year at Town Meeting. South Pond did go to selectmen recently and asked for money I forget how much. I watched that meeting. I agree we can’t let the lakes fall to the Milfoil. I also agree the $60.00 a year fee is ridiculously low and Cedar lakes $25.00 per year is insane for association fees. Each lake has their own association and governs themselves but any lake charging less then $100.00 per year needs to take a second look at their fees. I also think any lake with a town boat landing should get some type of funding towards weed reduction. Does anyone know if the town actually combats the weed infestation on its beaches and boat landings?
    Lake lover

  5. I gave misinformation myself and I apologize. Big Alum membership fees are $50.00 according to their web site and Cedar Lake has $50.00 and $75.00 for membership on their web site. Just wanted to clear that up.
    Still a Lake Lover

  6. Just an FYI: last year, I had been informed by one of Cedar Lakes past president's that he had raised the fees at some point, I think he said $100/household (not sure though), and that was sufficient to treat for weeds with no income from anywhere else.

    When you think about some of the lakes, they have businesses on them. Isn't it possible for those businesses to pay a bit more? They certainly generate more use of the lake.

    And could nonresidents pay a fee to use the lakes? If a sticker system was used, that could be accomplished. There's no reason why only lake residents should bear the cost of weed treatment, but neither should just the town, or non-lake residents.

    And it would be great if the lake associations would get back to writing grants to pay for it. Then the lake association money could be used for something else instead of weed treatment.

    Are any of the lake associations writing grants??

  7. Regarding cedar lake ...

    As for the weed control, I believe $75-$100 membership fees for certain residents is acceptable. However, as a Cedar Lake resident, I have observed many guests on our lake that do not reside on the lake, or even in our town. I imagine that this is the case for the other lakes in town with exception to Leadmine which is private. I would propose a Town of Sturbridge non-resident lake permit, similar to the boating permits that many neighboring states strictly require for entrance into their waterways. With the Sturbridge Police Department actively patroling our lakes, it would be simple to monitor for the presence of properly permitted boats. Such permits for non lake residents would also raise accountability for the actions of boaters as they might think twice about unsafe practices if the privilege of visiting our lakes was revoked.

    As far as the life jackets on Cedar Lake go, it's a great idea, but I agree with many of the comments on a number of blogs/message boards that point out the lack of supervision at the recreation area. If the town is going to provide any sort of suggested increased level of safety, then we are alluding to a safe swimming area. Without the correct ratio of properly trained staff, annual swim evaluations of day-campers by professional staff, and a swim area marked and separted for different age groups/swimming proficiency levels, then there should be SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK signs posted and notices provided by parents to sign and return that states their acceptance of the potential risks of unsupervised swim. Life jackets are only a safety tool. The right number of PROPERLY TRAINED / CERTIFIED life guards will be the foundation for any safety and accountability at the rec.

  8. Is this blog still active? I just moved to Sturbridge and appreciate reading thoughts like this. I cannot find a new post, however.

  9. Yes, "New to Sturbridge, this blog is still active! Welcome to town! Go to

  10. An initiative under consideration by the Town of Sturbridge and its governance to remove three dams on the Hamant Brook, a tributary of the Quinebaug River, has the enthusiastic support of Trout Unlimited (TU). With 105,000 members in 434 chapters across America, TU is dedicated to preserving America's coldwater fisheries (for more information go to: TU has been involved in the removal of dams across the country. Within the past five years, the MA-RI council of TU has been involved in the removal of six dam in Massachusetts, alone.

    With the realization of the impact of impoundments on natural fishery wildlife, the removal of dams has become a nationwide priority for a variety of conservation organizations in addition to TU. Removal of dams is vital in restoring coldwater fisheries. It begins the process of reconnecting streams that have been interrupted by multiple barriers, usually in the form of mill dams and ponds. Dam removal helps brook trout in headwaters reconnect to mainstem rivers. Dam removal also provides a return to natural stream flow conditions and helps lower water temperatures by removing the thermal impact of the ponds created behind dams. Thus, it will allow other coldwater species of trout to migrate upstream as temperatures rise in the Quinebaug River during late spring and summer.

    Publication of the stream work will lead to more fisherman traveling to fish in that stream, and will have a positive impact on local businesses. The Red Brook Project in Wareham, and the Quashnet project in Falmouth, both draw visitors from as far away as the mid-Atlantic states.

    Due to a recent re-chartering of chapters within the Massachusetts-Rhode Island council of TU, the Quinebaug River and its tributaries are now within Central Massachusetts Trout Unlimited’s territory. CMTU will provide the manpower for additional work involved in restoring the natural habitat of Hamant Brook after removal of the dams, should it come to fruition. This will help reduce the overall cost to the Town of Sturbridge. Of course, any and all such work would be performed with the cooperation and approval of the Town of Sturbridge, the Conservation Committee (ConCom) and any other appropriate governing bodies.

    In addition to the increased migration of fishermen to an un-impounded Hamant Brook watershed, there is another economic incentive for the town and its governance to remove the dams. It is my understanding that Sturbridge has been notified by the State of Massachusetts that one or more of these dams is in gross disrepair. The town can either bear the cost of repairs, estimated at $700,000 or incur stiff daily penalties for failing to do so. Removal of the dams, on the other hand, would not cost the Town of Sturbridge, as the Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as secured funding for dam removal.

    In conclusion, CMTU strongly supports dam removal on Hamant Brook and urges the residents and leaders of Sturbridge to move in a direction that fosters return of this watershed to a more natural habitat and makes economic sense.

    Larry R. Bush
    President, Central Mass Chapter of Trout Unlimited


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