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

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One Bite At A Time

It's the little things.

Cliche, I know, but it is so true.

Little things have a way of leading to little bigger things, and larger things. It's natural. Another cliche is, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It's silly, but those two cliches fit our current situation here in town very well. The other day I was driving past the Common and noticed that there were new flower urns at the corners to the Common and at the crosswalk on Main Street. I don't know whose idea they were, or when they were placed there (I've been away), but I like them. I like them a lot. They look like they have always been there. The pots, probably concrete, and stained dark to resemble iron, stand a couple of feet tall, and each are stuffed with flowers. They give a nice feel to the Common. An antique feel. It's 1875 all over again.

Those urns are little things, but they have made a major difference. They probably didn't cost too much, but they will last a long time. A small gesture invoking a larger impact.

If we take this approach to most of the situations, and issues here in town, it could work the same way.

Don't try to scarf down that elephant in a few bites. Start small, create an attitude that forms a culture for change.

For example, where are the Scenic Roads in town? I know they are there, the town specified certain roads to be scenic roads a few years ago. I don't see them listed on the towns website, but what's worse is there are no signs indicating that those roads are scenic. Signs are relatively cheap. The DPW could make up a bunch, mark them with the street name, and "Scenic Road". There. Done. A little improvement, but something that will have a lasting effect. Its like putting out the cloth napkins for company. Shows you care about your home to visitors. Little things like this, although, one could call them "window dressing" shows out of towners that we care about our town enough for them to check it out, too. A simple map of the scenic roadways would be nice to have as well. On it there would be points of interest, maybe a few businesses listed on the map and in the margin. Business owners could pay for the advertising. Map cost solved.

Sturbridge Pottery and Pioneer Oil have done a great job utilizing the Adopt-a-Visibility site program. Their plantings of plants and flowers on the traffic islands at the junction of Route 131 and Route 20 are very pretty, and this year they expanded their plantings to the corners as well. Again, a wonderful, small thing that makes a powerful statement for the town.

Several years ago I mentioned to couple of guys from the Historical Society about the need for signage at the bounds of the historical section of town on Main Street. They said they had thought about it. A couple of years ago the signs showed up. Nice signs on granite posts. Well done. A simple, but needed thing. Says a lot to people as they drive by the Common, and down Main Street. I had also mentioned that the significant, and historical sites in town needed signs, or markers as well. We have one now on the Common and across the street at the Old Cemetery. Of course, we need more around town, but the precedent has been set, and it will be easier to do the rest now.

We also need those signs like you see at historical sites, you know the ones that are about 3-4 feet tall, and almost horizontal with photos and text on them telling of the site. Those would be awesome. Visitors rely on little things like this to give meaning to where they stand. If we are to rely on tourism we have to think like inn keepers and make those little things happen. They may not seem important to some of us, since we live here, but for others in town, and our visitors, they are very important.

A large "Welcome to Sturbridge" sign on the traffic island on Route 20 a little east of Route 131 would be great. Offer it as a project to TRHS, and design it for wood and stone. The cost would be affordable, and the TRHS students would be on center stage.

These are just a few ideas that are simple, low cost, and needed. They make a great difference, and shows others that people that care actually do live here, and are willing to share what we have with them.

Remember, to have folks come, and come again, we need to think like an innkeeper, and take care of our visitors.

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