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.
THE SKATE PARK
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.
LIFE JACKET GRANT
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.