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, February 24, 2009

Tables On The Common

When I first came to Sturbridge there were a few picnic tables on the Town Common. They were set out each Spring, and taken in in the Fall. Something so simple gave so much pleasure.

I remember mothers parking their minivans alongside the Common, and releasing a half dozen little people onto the grass. I'd watch them play for a while, and eventually they would settle at a table. Mothers would walk around the tables setting juice boxes down in front of each face, and whatever snack they had brought along. After awhile of free form play and running about, the tables have a way of collecting children, and placing them back into some form of controllable order.

Functional furniture at its best.

There were times I'd see dog walkers sit at a table with their long leashes splayed out over the grass. The dogs doing their thing, and their master enjoying their coffee, and the morning, while seated at one of the tables.

Often, I would sit at a table close to the Charlton Street side, and read the paper, scribble in my journal, or just people watch. I lived very close to the Common, and it was like an extension of my front yard. It was a destination that was shady, comfortable, and one that allowed a passive enjoyment of the that great green space we are so fortunate to have in the center of our Town.

Then the tables were gone.

One year, they didn't show up. I called around, and found out that the Recreation Department were charge of the tables. I spoke to a woman that told me that the Department no longer had the money to place the tables out on the Common.


She went on to explain that a few of the tables needed repair, some needed to be replaced, and the DPW were the ones that were in charge of placing them on the Common, and getting them to work that task into their schedule was difficult. I asked her how many were in good enough condition to put on the common for the upcoming season, and even offered to help pay for repairs, or a new table. I was told there were about three tables. I then asked her to arrange with the DPW to place those three tables out there. She never took me up on my offer to help repair the tables.

During our conversation, she didn't sound happy, but a few weeks later the tables were dropped off. That summer was the last year I ever saw them on the Common.

It's time to put them back.

Now, I don't expect the Town to suck up the cost of the tables. There is a guy in town that builds picnic tables, and sells them at a reasonable price. The Town should establish a Picnic Table Fund, and folks can donate directly to the fund at the Town Hall, or at other places around town. Maybe businesses can donate a table and have their business name carved in the table as an incentive.

Eight tables would be just right. Three along each side, and two along the back edge of the Common on Chamberlain Street. Figure on $120.00 per table that comes to $960.00. Not an overwhelming amount to collect through donations.

Once the money is collected, and the tables are purchased they could be brought to the DPW garage and painted by volunteers, and then set out on the grass for another year of picnics, people watching, concert viewing, and sipping coffee in the afternoon.

Something so worthwhile, so relatively inexpensive, that provides so much enjoyment is hard to come by. Face it, we all need to enjoy life nowadays, and these little things can make a world of difference.

Now that I've brought it up on this space, I'll leave the rest to the Town. Forward this post onto the powers that be, and ask them to start a fund for the "Common Tables". Once the go ahead is given, I'll be the first to donate.

You know what would go great with picnic tables on the Town Common?

Wi-fi. Free wi-fi.

Bridging the gap between the 17th century and the present.

Let's discuss it more over coffee this summer at a table on the Common.

Express your support for "Tables on the Common" by forwarding this article to:

Town Administrator
Recreation Coordinator
You can forward this article by clicking the envelope at the bottom, and pasting the email addresses listed above in the "send to" space.


  1. Eight tables for our special Town Common seems a bit excessive. The simplicity of the Town Common gives it charm. Eight tables later and I imagine the look of the highway picnic areas. Two tables maybe, and the rest of the people can bring their picnic blanket and step back in time and get the real feel of the Historic Sturbridge Town Common.

  2. 8 seems about right. maybe 6. stepping back in time is wonderful, but I don't want to sit on the ground to do it. There are times for a blanket, and other times just to pull over, have a cold drink and read the paper. the common is for the people of the town, let's not make it impossible to use comfortably because we are worried about disturbing the historic context of the area. a few tables would not do that

  3. This is a great idea!! the benches are great on the common, but a place to sit with the family and have a picnic lunch would be the best! Are the old tables still available?

  4. This isn't just about tables. What about picking up trash, and providing the manpower to do that? Every picnic needs a good foodfight.

  5. There are trash receptacles on the Common, and the Sturbridge DPW attends to them on a regular basis.

  6. Alrighty then, what are we waiting for?

  7. I think we need the go ahead from the Town Administrator and the Rec people. If they say it's OK then we should start up a collection.


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