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, December 29, 2008

Buildings And The Brook

I have a couple of things rattling around upstairs that have been bugging me a bit. One is the restoration of the Hamant Brook. I know that the state biologist has stated that restoring the brook, and draining the ponds in the former Robinson Crusoe property would be the best thing to do in order to restore the area, but I'm still not on board.

This brook is one of the last areas in Massachusetts where Brook Trout reside east of the Berkshires. They are there because the area has not been "touched" by man for decades. They have not been "fished out" of the area, either. When the dams are taken down, and free access to the Quinebaug River is allowed for these fish, what then? They'll swim down stream to Southbridge, get sucked through the inlet at the Westville Dam, and then off to parts unknown.

No more Brook Trout.

I've been told that they won't venture that far, and they will return to brook to spawn. I hope so.

I also am having a hard time seeing the ponds disappear. I know they are man made, but they are beautiful. I'd hate to see them gone.

I'd like to have some reassurance about the trout, and just how the area will look after the dams are gone. Also, there is another pond at the top of the mountain that flows into the brook. this pond may have started out being a small one at one time, but beavers have dammed it against an old stone wall a the crest of the hill, and it is quite large now. The overflow runs down the mountain at an incredible pace, like a waterfall, and follows the tract of a stream that has been there forever. It flows between the stone remnants of an old mill. Will the plan to restore Hamant Brook involve removing the beaver dam as well? It is only a matter of time before it bursts on its own, and the volume of water held back will destroy anything positive done down stream.

Another thing that has been on my mind is the Town Hall / Center School Project. I expected things to be in progress at this date, but there have been meeting after meeting, and a lot of things to discuss, and work out. It is not the simple plan of refurbishment I thought it would be at the Town Meeting. I think they should put it on hold, and build a NEW Town Hall.

I am all for restoration, and using historic facilities to our best advantage, but to restore, retrofit, refurbish both buildings that have minimal parking, and awkward access I feel would not be the best way to go.

Build a new building somewhere else in town, and use some money to stabilize the deterioration of the Center School and current town hall until they can be salvaged for other purposes at a later time.

A new building can be designed to fit into the character of our town, and overall the cost of building new may be less expensive than retrofitting old building in the long run.

One thing I don't want to see is a grand restoration, and a few years down the road we have out grown the space of the two older buildings. It will happen eventually.

Parking is another issue at the current town hall site and across the street at the Center school. The town does not own any of its parking behind the town hall, the Federated Church owns it. The parking across the street is minimal, and the only access to the few lots behind the Center School is on one side of the building.

I know that the intention is a good one. We don't want these two old building to fall further in to disrepair, and saving a part of our heritage is always a good thing, but I guess the pragmatic side of me is coming out. A modern, well designed new building located elsewhere in town on land that would supply ample parking would be ideal.

So, what to do with the other buildings? Put them in mothballs till the time and money is there to refurbish them and utilize them for other purposes.

I know, kinda late in the game to be expressing this opinion, but I feel better, and I hope the towns current plan works out well.

I can't wait to see the results.


  1. I’m confused. I applaud your appreciation of the beauty of the ponds, as you state: “I also am having a hard time seeing the ponds disappear. I know they are man made, but they are beautiful. I'd hate to see them gone.” I only wish that you would see the same beauty in the old architecture and history of Veterans Memorial Hall.

    If we do not take it upon ourselves to restore and then maintain OUR historic Town Hall and Center School, who can we expect will do so in the future? We should expect that someone else will appreciate these historic gems, enough to sweep away the “mothballs” we tossed in “till the time and money is there to refurbish them and utilize them for other purposes.” If we as townspeople are willing to walk away from these buildings, to build something bigger and better, how can we expect some other entity to come forward and give them the time, money and attention they deserve?

    If your concern of parking was the only consideration, we’d keep the town offices in the building over any other uses that may be considered. Head to Town Hall any day of the week, and you’re sure to find plenty of parking options. If there is a meeting in the Church, or the Library on the same night as an important public meeting you might not get the first spot near the door, but in all my years attending meetings at night I have never once had a problem finding a parking space.

    Build a new Town Hall, maybe it could be as lovely as the newest Post Office in Fiskdale!

  2. The town hall is historic, but has served its usefulness. The parking is only one issue. As the town grows there is no room to expand. When the refurbishment starts the building will have to be emptied, and all the departments will have to be moved to temporary quarters. Parking is only one problem, the town has already made issues with the church by telling it had could not place signs out front advertising dances. They reconciled that when they "Traded" the signs out front for a place to put the town hall dumpster on church land, so who is to say that church will never shut off the town from the parking in the future. The town does not even have the land there to put their trash out. Wouldn't be a nice thing for the church to shut off the town, but don't come down on others and expect charity in return. Historic, or not, it is time to move on, and save the building for another use at some other time. By the way, the Fiskdale Post Office is fine. It has parking, easy access, and is convenient. Saving Our Heritage is one thing, but being wise on just how we do it is another.

  3. Dam removal at the Leadmine property will come before Selectmen for discussion with PLAC and Dept of Fish & Game, on January 12th at 6:30pm.

    I suggest all those interested attend this discussion; listen to facts from the experts in fish biology and life strategies, then make an informed decision.


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