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, September 15, 2008

Where Are They?

There is a Scenic Road bylaw here in our town, but are there any actual, official Scenic Roads?

Well, if there are they aren't listed on the Towns website, and there are no streets that I have found in town that are marked "Scenic Road".

This got me wondering, why?

A Scenic Road is just that, a byway that is scenic, and/or historic. Here in Central Mass that road could be a country lane surrounded by farmland, road running through the forest, or along a river. Here in Sturbridge we have many scenic roads, but why haven't any been officially designated?

I think I know why.

To become a scenic road there is a process, and once so designated it can be removed at any time, it's not forever. There are a lot of restrictions for the property owner when their road is designated a Scenic / Historic Road, too. And, the kicker is, it is all under the auspices of the Planning Board.

Say what? The Planning Board? No Scenic Road Advisory Council? No Pretty Street Committee?

The Planning Board.

You couple the Planning Board, and its agenda with the current Scenic Road bylaw and the original intent of the Scenic Road designation will be lost.

So, after a bit of research, and some thinking, I can see why there are no designated Scenic Roads in our town.

One would think there would have been a simple bylaw:

The road is scenic.
The end.

Oh, we could add a few things like, if you have do make adjustments to a stone wall, or take down a tree, come to a hearing, so as to make sure the road stays scenic. But no, a bureaucracy has written the bylaw, and that would be only a small part of the "process", and as I mentioned already, the designation can be taken away by the PB as well.

Just as well. We don't need a special sign telling us what streets in our town are scenic. All we need to do is go for a drive and our heads will tell us, "Man, this is a pretty road".

No bylaw needed.

As Amended 2007

To protect the scenic quality and character of certain roads within the Town of Sturbridge by establishing regulations that control physical alterations within public rights of way.
In the absence of contrary meanings established through legislative or judicial action, pursuant to MGL Ch. 40, § 15C, the following terms contained in this bylaw shall be defined as follows:
Cutting or Removing Trees – Shall mean the removal of one or more trees.
Repair, Maintenance, Reconstruction or Paving Work – Shall mean any work done within the right-of-way by any person or agency, public or private. Within this definition is included any work on any portion of the right-of-way which was not physically commenced at the time the road was designated as a scenic road. Construction of new driveways or alteration of existing driveways is included, insofar as it takes place within the right-of-way.
Roads – Shall mean a right-of-way of any way used and maintained as a public way including the vehicular traveled way plus necessary appurtenances within the right-of-way such as bridge structures, drainage systems, retaining walls, traffic control devices and sidewalks, but not intersecting streets or driveways. When the boundary of the right-of-way is an issue so that a dispute arises as to whether or not certain trees or stone walls or portions thereof are within or without of the way, the trees and stone walls shall be presumed to be within the way until the contrary is shown.
Tearing Down or Destruction of Stone Walls – Shall mean the destruction of more than fifteen (15) linear feet of stone wall involving more than one cubic foot of wall material per linear foot above the existing grade, but shall not be construed to include temporary removal and replacement at the same location with the same material.
Trees – Shall include any living tree whose trunk has a diameter of four inches or more as measured one (1) foot above the ground.
The Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Historical Commission may petition the Board of Selectmen for additions or deletions to the list of scenic
Sturbridge General Bylaws
As Amended 2007
roads for consideration at Town Meeting. Any petition for “scenic road” designation must be accompanied by a written description of the characteristics of the road as a justification for the protection afforded by this bylaw.
Within the public right-of-way of designated scenic roads, the following activities shall require written approval of the Planning Board in accordance with the provisions of this bylaw:
The tearing down, painting or destruction of stone walls.
The cutting or removal of trees the scope of which is outside the responsibility of the Tree Warden as defined in Massachusetts General Laws or the Town of Sturbridge General Bylaws.
Repair, maintenance, reconstruction or paving work, including the construction of new driveways or alteration of existing driveways, insofar as they affect stone walls or trees within the public right-of-way, as defined above.
In cases where a threat to public safety does not allow sufficient time to obtain approvals from the Planning Board, the Planning Board must be notified within five (5) business days of any action which, had the threat not existed, would be a violation of this bylaw.
The Planning Board shall, as required by statute, give notice of its public hearings by advertising twice in a newspaper of general circulation in the area. This notice shall contain a statement as to the time, date, place and purpose of the hearing with a reasonable description of the action and its location proposed by the applicant. Copies of this notice shall also be sent to the Town Clerk, Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Tree Warden, the Director of Public Works and the owners of property within one-hundred (100) feet of the proposed action.
The Planning Board shall hold a public hearing within thirty (30) days of receipt of an application and shall approve, conditionally approve or deny an application within sixty (60) days of receipt. In making its decision, the Planning Board shall consider the following criteria and shall not grant approval if the proposed action will be in violation of one or more of the following:
Preservation of historic values
Sturbridge General Bylaws
As Amended 2007
Preservation of scenic and aesthetic quality of the area
Protection of natural resource and environmental systems
Public Safety
Compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood
In making its decision, the Planning Board may grant an approval that otherwise would be denied if the overall effect of the proposed alteration, including compensatory action, such as the planting of new trees or the reconstruction of stone walls, is to maintain or improve the scenic quality or historical character of the road.

Comments are now closed on this post.


  1. There are designated scenic roads in Sturbridge, which were voted on at the 2004 Annual Town Meeting. The roads which were approved and designated "scenic roads", are listed in Article 11 of the warrant. Many towns have Scenic Road Bylaws, and Sturbridge was smart enough to designate scenic roads here in our little town.

  2. is this the only place they are listed? why aren't the roads marked? what roads are they? how can someone find out which roads they are without rummaging around for an town warrant?

  3. I didn't know we had any scenic roads. besides the warrant where can we find which roads they are? I'd like to know if my road is on the list.