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

Friday, May 16, 2008

Are We Up To The Challenge?

Since the Town Administrator spoke of improving things around here the other night, I've been thinking some more. The vocalizing of changes and improvements was a great first step, and now we need to move on it. Here is a list of changes and improvements that I feel are a priority. Some, will be like de ja vu all over again since I have mentioned many of them in previous posts, some will be brand new, but they all seem to follow what the Town Administrator spoke of the other night. Would it be presumptuous to call myself a muse? OK, OK, yes, it would, but his ideas and mine were not far off.

Here is my list.
  1. The triangle shaped median on Route 20 in front of the State Police Barracks needs help. this is the first sight visitors see when they roll off the Pike, or I-84, and it is barren except for some trees and bushes planted years ago and are out of control. Plant some trees, and prune/thin the tangle of bushes and trees already there. Don't plant 6 foot tall whips, plant real trees. Put one of those split rail fences around the perimeter like the one in front of OSV, and the little park at the intersection of Route 20 and Cedar Street. And, then place a large, well designed sign on the land for travelers to see. A wooden sign, not some metal thing made up in the Mass Highway garage. "Welcome to Sturbridge" it would say, and then maybe a phrase like Southbridges "Eye of the Commonwealth".
  2. Do the same for the islands at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 131. Sturbridge Pottery and Pioneer Oil have done well to do plantings on these sites, but more is needed.
  3. Cut down those ugly trees along the north side of Route 20 and Cedar Lake!! If they are there for erosion control, which I strongly doubt, then dump some rip rap on the banks. The trees are not only ugly, but block what would be a wonderful view right in the center of our town.
  4. Begin a street sweeping schedule that covers Route 20 from New Boston Road to Holland Road, Route 131, around the Common, and to Hall Road every week, and schedule it during the off hours as not to interfere with traffic.
  5. Litter. While getting municipal workers to take a few hours off on a Friday afternoon to pick up litter along Route 20 may be a great thought, it is not practical. Face it, it's the end of the week, and most folks are dead tired. The last thing an office worker wants to do is bag trash before the weekend. Hire someone. Hire a full time person to take charge of things like this, and the redevelopment of the down town area. Pay them. Volunteers are wonderful, but there are things you want to pay someone for, and this is one of them.
  6. Sidewalks along the south side of Route 20. Just do it.
  7. Re-build the granite block median along Route 20 in front of the Picadilly Pub and down to Cedar Street. The angle curbs should be removed, straight ones installed, and the granite block on the median removed and replaced with trees. Cambridge Street in Boston did this and the road is beautiful now.
  8. Period lighting is a fantastic idea for Rout 20 and Route 131. First we need to fix the utility poles along the way. They need to move them underground, or behind the buildings. This is not just for aesthetics, but because they violate the ADA, and if we don't address it, we will be paying through the nose for the violations. After we address the poles, new lighting can be installed. And none of that sodium vapor yellow industrial lighting either, white light would be best.
  9. And, about that Oliver Wight House that OSV owns. I know, I know, I've been on this soap box before, but it is sitting there begging to be made right. OSV wants cash, the town wants to maintain its small town charm. Beat the strip mall developer to the punch. Work out a deal with OSV, and use it for shops and a park. If the buildings can't be retrofitted, which I doubt they can't be, then remove them and make a green space with parking for the town.
  10. Institute a sign bylaw that makes all business signs conform to certain standards. Rid the area of the tacky signs, and don't grandfather any of them. If you want to change the look, you have to change the look. Period.
  11. Work with the owner of the property at the intersection of Holland Road to clean up the property. Tear down the fence, remove the trees and brush and Voila!! A wonderful green space and view as one enters the town from the west. Better yet, buy the building outright and go nuts with shops, restaurant, galleries. Maybe some outdoor dining around the mill pond?
  12. Picking up of litter from the roadside on a regular basis, and more permanent trash receptacles around town.
Well, there you have it, more thoughts, not all of the mess I have swimming around in my head, but enough for now. And, how the heck are we going to do all this? We have the WWTF, the Burgess School, and Route 131 sewer project to do. Where the heck will the money come from? Well, I haven't a clue, but I know how to start the process. Spend a little money and bring in someone that has some skills like grant writing, and organization. Work with the departments already on the payroll in town and plan work and maintenance that can be more easily incorporated into the budge without having to reinvent the wheel. Ask for donations from major contributors for plantings and fencing. Give them the advertising they deserve for their business, and priority when it comes to actually hiring them for work to be done in town in exchange. Not to say they'll get the contract, but the donations will certainly go in their favor. And of course, use volunteers. Under a strong, organized leader anything is possible. Look at what has occured at the Heins Property so far. Amazing work.

If planned, and thought out well anything is possible. The challenge was announced the other night by Jim Malloy, now lets see if the town will accept it.

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas! Making the grass islands greener, on Route 20, will enhance the look of our town for very little money. The large metal signs that give recognition to the businesses that donate the garden planted below them, are so large and ugly they dwarf each of the gardens. Trees and fences will improve the balance and scale, and if designed right the signs and red lights will become dwarfed.

    I love your tree and stacked split rail fence ideas, in the various islands. I've suggested similar ideas in the past and was told that emergency vehicles have to be able to drive through. This seems unreasonable and I think we shouldn't accept this small excuse. The cobblestone median along Route 20 couldn't have trees because the emergency vehicles had to get through, then suddenly the median was flanked with signs (no right turn, no U turn, one way, etc). Emergency vehicles can't drive through the signs. Some towns have jersey barriers or high curbs, which can't be driven through, but those towns are considered safe and accessible.

    The recent SHP Plan, which was state funded, stated that we need to work towards enhancing the gateway to Sturbridge, as we strive to increase our tourism economic base.
    So much can be done for so little, and your ideas are a positive step in the right direction.

    It seems like the past Board of Selectmen’s approach is being listened to by the Town Administrator. And with one of the newest members having a pet peeve about cigarette buts, maybe we have found something all can agree on.


Anonymous comments not accepted, and will be rejected. Please use your full name. Choose "Name / URL" and enter your name, and your name ONLY. Leave "URL" blank.