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
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Other things that we observed were as I had written about last week, but there was something else I noticed as well. Although Sturbridge, and Ogunquit are both towns that rely heavily on the tourist trade, Ogunquit has much more experience than we do here in town, and it shows. They have learned what works, and what doesn't. Instead of bumbling about from square one, we need to utilize the experience of others that have walked the path before us. Just makes sense.
In the "downtown" area of Ogunquit there are two municipal parking lots available to those wanting to frequent the restaurants and shops. Each has a time limit for those parking of two hours, and one has a Public restroom. Parking is something Sturbridge definitely needs, and has been on the table for some time at the town hall. Finding land that could be used for municipal parking is another thing. I've said it before, but the best piece of land available is the parcel between Earth Spirits and the old Basketville on Main Street.
The shops on Main Street have little, or no parking available. No parking means few customers, and that means poor sales, and eventually... .
The parking situation here in town needs to be addressed soon.
Crosswalks in the walking town of Ogunquit are clearly marked. It is a simple thing, painting sidewalk stripes, but important, and their number needs to be adequate as well. Here in Sturbridge, we don't have as many crosswalks as we need, and the crosswalks should be re-painted every spring, and marked with a mid street sign indicating that it is a crosswalk. I know, we have the signs, but not enough, and after they are knocked down, they aren't replaced as fast as they should be.
Another thing that the businesses do up in Ogunquit is all work together toward a common goal. The goal is to increase business, and increase their return business from year to year. Shops are not afraid to recommend another shop that may have something you are looking for. There is an up to date map of the areas shopping area, and tourist locations available to all. A trolley runs from May to the fall to shuttle folks from point to point within the village thus cutting traffic considerably, and making the town more walkable. Folks are dropped off at any one of a dozen or so stops, and they can get back on wherever they wander off to.
Many of the shops have a lot in common. Of course you can buy the "Ogunquit, Maine" sweatshirt at any number of places on and around Main Street, but each shop offers something the other doesn't. There are several gift stores that offer one of a kind art work and gifts that other places in town do not offer. There are very specific stores, as well. One specializes only in toys, another in fine infant and toddler clothing, another in just candy and sweets, a shop for antiques, one for special grocery items, women's clothing, beach supplies, camera supplies, art glass, pottery, and several art galleries.
Variety is key. Attracting people to set up shop is key as well.
Each time Mary and I have visited the Perkins Cove section of Ogunquit, we have visited the galleries, and purchased a print form the artist. We parked in the municipal lot, walked along Ogunquit's pride and joy, the Marginal Way which led us to several restaurants and shops.
We will walk along the Marginal Way path from downtown, along the ocean to Perkins Cove, grab a cup of coffee, stare at the sea, and the birds, and then poke around in all the shops.
It is almost as if they had it all planned to make the accompaniment of our wallets as convenient and as pleasant as possible.
Imagine that, an actual plan.
So, if we are ever to get beyond where we are now, we need to do more. We need to make the fabric of the town attractive to those in business in order to attract them to set up shop here in town. Those things that will make our town attractive to others will most certainly make Sturbridge a better place for all of us that are fortunate enough to live here as well.
I know, there are committees, and boards designed just to address the tourist trade in and around Sturbridge, and I know their heads are all screwed on the right way, however as time goes on, I see very little changes, if any.
Think bold, be creative, and don't be afraid of failure. With the talent we have here on those boards, and within the borders of our town, we can accomplish most anything we set our mind to.
The issue is setting our mind to it.