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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rainy Day Fun On Brookfield Road

It's raining. Actually, right now it is pouring.

Big surprise in this summer that isn't.

Dark, gray skies, wet grass, and puddles the size of Lake Huron. The Summer of '09 will certainly enter the record books as the wettest, coolest, and less sunny summer in some time. I wonder if the planets axis has shifted. Seattle is having over 100 degree days. What's up with that? The countries northwest corner, the place famous for fog, and Amazon-like rain, where ferns grown to the size of minivans is having a heat wave. Global warming? I have no clue. I think the axis is off. Too many people on one side of this globe and throwing the whole planet out of whack.

I have a fix, though. On the count of three, I want everyone in the far east to take ten steps west. That should do it.

In the meantime, while I am waiting for the sun to come back to the western hemisphere, I need to do something around this Old House otherwise I will loose my mind. Mowing the lawn is out. I'll need a machete soon. Looks like a day for indoor projects. Let's look at the list.
  1. Makeover the Master bedroom. Naw. That'll take a least a week.
  2. Tile the hallway to the sun porch, and garage. Nope. Need to replace the 60 year old door to the garage with a fire resistant door first.
  3. Replace door into garage. Hmmm. It's an indoor project. I'll be dry. Won't take a whole lot of work unless I find surprises beneath the trim. I could have it in place in a few hours.
OK, that's it. It's off to Home Depot. I wish there was a Home Depot at the end of my street, or a Lowes. Sometimes I just like to wander the aisles and "dream-build". It's a lousy hobby, but it's cheap, and keeps me off the streets at night.

So, it's off to Auburn. The rain is slowing down. Wouldn't you know it. Too late. My mind is made up. It's door replacement day at the Hersee household. Mary will be so surprised. She loves to get flowers, and doors.

There is nothing too good for her. Next sunny day, I'm going to seal the driveway for her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

War reenactments don't get much better than this one

War reenactments dont get much better than this one ---The Providence Journal

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Coffee sweetened with karma in Samaritan story

Coffee sweetened with karma in Samaritan story

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One More Reason

There's a "barn raisin' " mentality in small towns. We've experienced it here recently.

That kind of home grown attitude is one of the things that make a town a town, and not just a place.
This attitude is good not only for "barn raisin' ", but for coaching Little League, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, being Girl Scout Leader, or comforting those in need of comforting.

It just happens. Things fall into place, and folks just seem to know what to do.

The results are good. Interestingly, there isn't a whole lot of debate on how to proceed. People just do. Their eyes are only on the end result, not how to get there.

Just works.

Protocol, precendent, and pagentry take a back seat.

It's just another reason I live here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yes, You Did Say That Out Loud

The neat thing about making much ado about nothing that there is always a bright side. Whether it be a corporation, or a town, when the principal characters verbalize how they feel about something that is trite, insignificant, and tiny in the universe of other more important stuff it is often more telling than if they were commenting on something vastly more important.

I don't know why this is, but it seems to always happen.

Take for instance the comment made by our towns select person:

“Personally, I’m not in favor of putting picnic tables all over the place,” Mrs. Blanchard said. “We certainly have a few benches that people can use … It’s not a picnic area.”

Say what? No picnics on the Town Common? OK, folks don't your dare give one of your kids a juice pack on the Common, or even think of uncorking that wine to serve with your crackers and cheese on concert night. And, forget about that coffee and danish on Saturday morning.

“I think that putting cheap picnic tables on the Town Common is totally inconsistent with the historic atmosphere on the Town Common,” Mr. Malloy said.

Cheap? $800.00? Maybe he met "cheap" in the qualitative sense. Naw, that can't be it. He meant cheap in the quantitative sense. "Historic atmosphere"? Cripes. The whole town is historic. Should we start removing everything that the last century has brought?

Or how about this one?

“The Common has been around since 1738 and there has never been a need for picnic tables so far,” Historical Commission Chairman Brian D. Burns said.

No picnic tables? Really? They were there a few years ago, and had been there for some time. Oh, but that's in the past. History. Sounds like the convenient re-writing of history to me.

I guess my point this morning is that when a silly issue rears its head, like the placing of a picnic table on the Town Common to replace one that has outlived its usefulness, that it causes people in certain positions to speak before they think. After all, it's a minor issue, no need for a great deal of thought, right?

Apparently not.

I do have to say that I have a great deal of respect for each of the people quoted above, but they are not infallible. They are human, and like me, their lips can move faster than their heads.

The fix? Well, there isn't anyway to take back what was said, however, if one sits back, and gives the matter some thought, and speaks as a representative of the people, and not as a private citizen, maybe a bunch of different words will be said.

Words like, "I'll get back to you on that.", or "Let me look into it more.", or even better, "Hey, it's only picnic table. Let's look into the best way to place it on the Common for the enjoyment of our residents and visitors."

Of course, I'd like to hear, "Did I say that out loud?" after each comment.

It covers a whole variety of slips of the tongue. Believe me, I know.

Source of quotes: Worcester Telegram article.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Is Great!

If I had just $5.00 from everyone that has commented positively about the picnic table article, in the Worcester Telegram, I think I could make at least half of my goal by the weekend.

Donating is easy. Just a few mouse clicks is all it takes, and it's very secure, too. You can also send a donation me via the USPS, too.

Email for mailing address.

And Now, From "The Give Me A Break" Files Comes This...

Below is today's Worcester Telegram article by Craig Semon I referred to in yesterdays post regarding the new picnic table on the Town Common.

Article from the Worcester Telegram& Gazette:

Picnic Table Stirs Up A Stew

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's A Table, Nothing More

And, so on it goes... .

Picnic tables. Such a common thing (no pun intended, really).

I received a phone call today from Craig, the reporter at the Worcester Telegram that covers our town, and he asked me if I knew about the new picnic table on the Town Common.

I wasn't even aware that one was there, but he told me it has been there for a week or two. It seems to have come from the Recreation Department , and is a replacement of the one that went missing a few years ago. More than one table has gone "missing".

When I arrived here in the summer of 2000 there were a few tables on the common, the following year they didn't show up, so I called the Rec Department, and some time later they were delivered to the Common by the DPW. Now, I don't remember exactly how many tables there were in 2000, but there were less later on, and after a year or two, they just disappeared.

They were old, and may have just required too much maintenance to keep going. Picnic tables have been a part of the common for some time.

They ain't nuthin' new.

Craig also told me that some folks were upset about the new table on the common. When I asked him who these "some people" were he only gave me one name, but it is enough. I fully understand why that person would not want tables on the Common. The person is a history buff, and feels that anything other than what was there originally is a desecration of the ground. That goes for the bandstand, benches, concrete walkways, and the electric power that powers the lights at Christmas, and the lights inside the bandstand, and anything else that is not "original".

History people can be that way. I'm a history person, too, but as long as I continue to take my medication, I am controllable, reasonable, and rarely chase cars anymore.

The Common goes back a few hundred years, a gift from the Salstonstall Family, it is called a common because the land was given to be used by the residents of Sturbridge for purposes in common, or things that were common to do at the time. Take your pick, both are correct.

A piece of land in common with each other, used for purposes in common with each other. The drilling of militias, the grazing of livestock, and whatever other purpose was needed. The cemetery was a common need. The meeting house was also a common need as well, and is the very reason why this particular land was chosen. The meeting house was not only a place of worship, but a center of town government.

Some how, over the years, the original purpose of this common land began to loose its meaning. The Worcester County Agricultural folks built a building (now the current town hall) on Common land. How this happened is any ones guess, but should never have occurred. Where the Joshua Hyde Library is now a shoe factory was allowed to be built. I have the original hand written agreement between the town and the folks that owned the factory. That should never have happened as well. A factory on the town common? Beats the bejeepers out of a picnic table or two.

Tonight, after a great meal at Ebeneezer's at the Publick House, we took a drive by the new interloper on the common. The table is green, with bent metal tubing for supports, and a mesh table top. At one end of the table the top extends out about 18 inches more than the other side to accommodate folks in a wheelchair. It's an ADA table. The table is also chained to a tree.

Smart move.

There are metal, low maintenance picnic tables with more of a traditional look, but after seeing this one, it is fine. The table sits on the Chamberain Street side of the common in front of the Chamberlain Block of apartments, and is completely unobtrusive.

It blends in very well. Doesn't make any noise, and just sits there awaiting the next person to sit down, sip some coffee, and read the paper a bit. Maybe more than one person will sit down and enjoy themselves, and their surroundings. Eating at tables, sipping coffee, and reading the paper are all "common" things. Can't think of a better place to enjoy them than on a nice day, surrounded by history, and in the shade of an old maple.

Sounds like an act for the common good to me.

I guess the question is, is it appropriate to place a picnic table on a beautiful piece of town owned land for residents, and visitors alike to enjoy regardless of the fact that the land is historic.

Them answer is yes. The land is not sacred in the true sense of the word. It is not a battlefield, or other hallowed ground. It is a town common meant to be shared with everyone in common. If folks feel that the picnic table is out of place, then what about other things like weddings, festivals, craft fairs, concerts, and all the modern touches of today that they bring? Should we say no to them as well?

Years ago I walked the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. That is sacred ground. Hallowed ground, yet there are stone benches for one to sit, and think. Of course there were no picnic tables. Different land, different history. At Verdun I went into a small store, and when I came out to my car, which was parked on the opposite side of the road against the wall of the old Citadel, I looked at the wall and there, on a small wooden sign, were a few words written to commemorate the 16 members of the French Resistance that were shot at this place in 1944. A truly sacred place, yet there was a convenience store 25 feet way, parking along the wall, and other businesses along the street. Again, different place, different history, and a different way of remembering.

The thing about history is that is ours, not just yours. It is everyones. We can acknowledge it, learn from it, and respect it, but we should never prevent people from visiting places that are historic, and enjoying it depending on the site within reason. A picnic lunch on the Gettysburg Battlefield would be out of place, but at one of the tables along side the road in the area it would be appropriate. The Sturbridge Town Common, while historic, is not something that we should use to push our own agenda on what is respect for history, and what is not. Quite frankly, it is an old pasture, muster field, and a place they sold livestock from at one time. A picnic table, or two, is nothing compared to being ankle deep in manure, and mud.

It is also something else. It is a place where many marriages have begun, parents have played with their children, baseball was once played on a regular basis, craft fairs and festivals have been held, students have come to to have the pictures taken before their proms, and so many more happy events have occurred.

A picnic is a happy event.

For those against tables on the Common, make a bologna sandwich, go on picnic, and just be happy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Common Cord

I think we are finding our place.

It seems that Sturbridge was a place without much going for it in many ways other than Old Sturbridge Village, the Publick House, and the conventions over at the Host Hotel. Yes, we have a history, and fantastic outdoor venues in town, but something was missing. Everything seemed discombobulated, and willy nilly.

Discombobulated, and willy nilly. Actually, those same words have been used to describe me, so I can testify to their good use here.

We were missing a common link, a string that would connect all of our attractions, history, venues, and businesses. Before that connection could be made we needed to decide just who we were. Were we just an old central Massachusetts town with some history, and a great location? Were we Old Sturbridge Village? Were we a great place for outdoor activities, or a swell place for antiquing?

Well, we are all of those things, and more, but what we needed was a common thread, something to weave all of our parts together, and the sooner we found it, the sooner we could grow more.

I think we've found that thread: Old Sturbridge Village, and history.

The recent start of our Ambassador program where 19th century costumed greeters meet visitors to our town at the Host Hotel, and the outreach of OSV to the Information Center on Route 20 has begun to weave that common cord. Sturbridge is a great history destination in New England. Just as Plimouth Plantation has woven itself into the fabric of life in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the essence of what OSV is has begun to be shared outside their borders.

When one mentions Sturbridge to an outsider they will most always immediately respond, "Old Sturbridge Village", or something about history. Although many of us knew just what foundation was the best to grow our town on, it took a long time for it to be seen by others here in town. That foundation is history.

Now, they are beginning to see things clearer, and to look for more ways to tie it all together.

I can see, in the not too distant future, other connections being made in the same vein, with and without OSV. Militia drills on the Town Common every weekend during the summer, costumed greeters on the Common teaching visitors our history, carriage rides along our trails like they do along the trails in Acadia National Park in Maine, live music played at different venues around town, and much more.

A live 19th century band playing at the little park next to the Marketplace at the Falls would not only attract people, but those folks would visit the shops at that end of town.

A common theme shared by all, and designed in such a way as to tie everything together. That's what capitalizing on our history can do, and with our starting to head in that direction we can only imagine how the past can change our future.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fiskdale Telephone Pole Leaking

I am easily amazed, or amused, depending on the situation. Recently, here in Fiskdale, I have been both.

There is a new tourist attraction here in town. It appeared subtly, but is fast making its mark. If left unchecked I can only imagine what more excitement it will bring.

The Secret Spring of Flowing Water could become a tourist draw second only to Old Sturbridge Village, but judge for yourself. Drive west on Route 20 past MicKnucks grocery store, and just up the road, on the right, at a telephone pole on the corner with School Street is a remarkable sight. There, coming from deep in the ground at the base of the telephone pole is a bubbling spring of water!

It's a meeer-ray-cull!!! Fresh, clean water coming out of the ground from around the telephone pole, and flowing onto the sidewalk and onto the road everyday for most of the summer. I've never seen this happen before.

It's a sign.

But a sign for what?

I really don't rightly know. Maybe its the high ground water level due to all the rain we've enjoyed this season, or maybe it's the reemergence of an old spring long ago capped over, and only now making itself known again.

Or, it could be a busted water pipe.

Naw. That can't be it. Yes, there was a house at this site long ago, and maybe the old water service pipe was never fully removed. Nope. It's a miracle. Yep, that's what it is, a modern day burning bush, or rather, wet pole.

Now, if it is a spring, or an old water pipe that's sprung a leak, then we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with the water flowing to the surface. There must be bazillions of gallons down in the ground, under the pole just carving away at the soil, gravel, and rocks under there. Ground is probably kinda mushy down there.

So, what's next? Well, if you stick a pencil in a bowl of pudding, it will stand upright for a bit, but after a while, what happens?

I figure that at the rate the water is flowing out of the ground twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, that sometime come mid-September that telephone pole is going to slowly slide into the ground and bring all our utilities that much closer to us.

Can you hear me now?

So, if you're in the mood for a fun filled "Stay-cation" and don't want to spend a whole lot on amusing the kids, then pack up the car, grab the camera and head out to the corner of School and Main. Bring a lunch and make a day of it, and don't forget the kids "floaties", but hurry. Who knows, the spring could dry up anytime we get more than three days of summer weather in a row, or if the DPW goes on an explore and digs a hole to see what's up.

Fun is where you find it, and in today's economy, it's nice to find some right on Main Street.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tom Chamberland: Interpreter Of The Year

turbridge, East Brimfield and Westville Lake Park Ranger Tom Chamberland has been awarded the New England District’s “Interpreter of the Year” award. Tom was nominated by Buffumville Lake Park Ranger Jean Hixson, Chair of the Corps District Interpretive Committee. The Award was presented by Colonel Peter A. DeLuca Commander, North Atlantic Division Engineer on Thursday July 2nd, while on a visit to the New England District and Westville Lake.

The New England District annually recognizes one of its Park Rangers for outstanding work in interpreting not only the day to day work and mission of the Corps, but seeks to recognize those who reach out with special programs and initiatives. “Tom’s nomination was an easy fit with the guidelines we look for in this award” said Park Ranger Jean Hixson, continuing “Tom has demonstrated not only his ability to meet locally with school groups interpreting the Corps mission and promoting our water safety message, but his initiative in recreational trails, and on his becoming a resource to other park rangers on recreation accessibility for trails and outdoors environments as well as seeking to assist a local non profit group in promoting a 60 mile regional trail effort that can connect 4 other Corps projects, along with his volunteering to serve on a newly formed national ad hock group to promote and expand safe water trails Tom has clearly demonstrated what an interpreter of the year is all about.”

Tom was pleased and surprised when presented the award, saying “I value my work with the Corps, as every day I have the opportunity to inform, educate and improve the lives of school children, and families, when they can get outdoors and enjoy the natural resources of our area. Providing all folks a healthy place to recreate, and the ability to learn a little something along the way is a great job to have. I am honored to receive this recognition from my peers.”

Tom’s nomination will now be presented to the Division level for consideration and if successful, forwarded to the National Level for the Hiram M Chittenden Award, The Corps of Engineers annual outstanding interpreter award.

Colonel Peter DeLuca presents Park Ranger Tom Chamberland with the New England District’s Interpreter of the year award at Westville Lake, while Tom’s wife Diane looks on.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And, Along Came Jim...

The more I see, the more I envision a tall man astride a palomino. He'd look down at those around him, touch the brim of his hat, and say,"Just trying to help.", and then ride off till needed again.

Jim Donahue, the CEO at Old Sturbridge Village, is that man. When he arrived at the financially shaken OSV just two years ago, he began to lead the organization out of decades of accumulative poor choices, and a poorly run administration. Within a short time, the attendance at OSV jumped remarkably. He brought back the costumed interpreters that wander the Village, and put less emphasis on the high tech video, and photographic interpretations within the village. Visitors want to interact with people. It takes people to make a village work.

Since he arrived in July of 2007 donations to the Village have doubled. No small feat.

As time went on, he reopened the Oliver Wight Tavern, began to take care of the neglected maintenance of the buildings within the village, and introduced what is becoming annual traditions, "The Village by Candlelight" around the Christmas Holiday, and the Fourth of July Celebration with magnificent fireworks.

Jim Donahue has taken an old treasure , and revitalized it, and even in this economy, he has made it work.

Recently, the Chamber of Commerce that runs the information center at the jug handle on Route 20 across from OSV, fell onto hard times financially. The Info Center was going to shut down.

Then along came Jim...

Donahue's idea was to pay the current employees at the Info Center with OSV money, and set up a small cafe for travelers inside the building. This plan was two fold: to help out the Chamber during tough times, and to keep the info center open, and to extend the hand of OSV outside the village, with the intention of steering more numbers across the street.

Takes vision, and imagination to come up with these ideas, and the brass to go for it.

So far, he has it all.

Lead by example. Our parents taught us this, our teachers stressed it, and our bosses have insisted on it. It works.

Let's watch and see how his example spreads through our community. What he has accomplished in such a short period of time at Old Sturbridge Village is amazing. His vision, and the vision and dedication of those around him have set the bar fairly high. Would be nice if some of that fell onto Sturbridge itself.

After all, it may just take a village.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Attic Clearance

Just some rambling thoughts that have been knocking about upstairs for awhile.

I really like the temporary site for the Town Hall and offices. Well sited, great parking, and if we didn't have the Old Town Hall to go back to next year, it would be an ideal. I know, I know the restoration of the Town Hall and the Center School will be fantastic, but for a temporary setting, we couldn't have asked for better.

My grandson went to the playground down off Cedar Street, on the lake, in the early spring, and was disappointed that the swings and see-saw were gone. In their place was these climbing things. Nice to upgrade the playground, but what about the swings? Too much of a liability? Was maintenance an issue? Swinging can be either exiting, or fairly mindless. Teaching a child how to "pump" their legs in order to keep the swing going on their own is rite of passage from toddler hood to young child. As a child gets older, there is nothing quite like sitting in a swing, next to a friend, and just talking 'bout stuff. Climbing things are OK, but they require more active participation, and once climbed over once, then what?

I'll take swings anytime.

We were pleasantly surprised to find a "Sadie Greens" in Ogunquit. Apparently the Sturbridge gift, jewelry, and treasure store has several places in Maine. I am out of the loop in a lot of things, and this was one of them.

Still thinking about how neat it would be to have an LL Bean, or some such large outdoor retail store here in Sturbridge. Location is fantastic, and the folks it would draw from all over would spill into other places in town.

Another thing I have thought about is "Outlet Shops". Real outlets, not just stores that attach the word "Outlet" to their name as is often the case down Wrentham, Kittery, and North Conway. Talk about a great traffic draw. Route 15 maybe?

The motel on the corner of New Boston Road, and Route 20 is no longer in business. Just an empty building is all that remains. We won't miss the motel rooms, but I wonder, what would be something that would fit in that spot now? No, not another block of stores. Maybe some batting cages, or miniature golf? I know, Crystal Caves wanted to build a complex here in Sturbridge a few years ago, but it never go the support of the town. Would be nice, though. Route 15 instead?

I hear that the Subway on Main Street in Fiskdale is going to move to the spot in the Market Place at the Falls where Melindas Menu was until recently. The landlord told the owner of Melinda's Menu to pack up and head out, because Subway was going in there. That sucks.

The only place in town that one can buy art from the artists at their own "studio" is Sturbridge Pottery on New Boston Road. Their pottery is fantastic. I think Sturbridge could use a few more galleries and studios in town. If you are an artist, or sculptor, give it some thought. Be nice to see something like that on Main Street.

Is it time to build a bigger Post Office in Sturbridge, or is quaint and tiny going to get us through the next ten years or so? Just a thought.

Will the bus ever come back to Sturbridge? I don't know, but I think there would be enough people along Route 20, between Auburn and Springfield, that would use the bus. Every town needs some form of mass transit for its residents to use to get out of town, and for those already out of town, to come on in. Not everyone has a car, or chooses to drive.

I think that Sturbridge should take back Route 20 from the state.

I like those American flags placed on the telephone poles along Main Street. It's about time. Flags, banners, and flower beds are the "window dressing" to any town. When a visitor drives through town, and sees these little things they know the town is "alive". A town devoid of the little things is "cold", and comes across as just one more place on the map to drive through. Flowers planted along the road, and seasonal things like flags on telephone poles during the holidays shows that people actually live here, and they care how their town looks, and is seen by others.

We're on track with taking care of the little things.

I'd like to see a list of what roads in town are considered "Scenic", and I'd also like to see signs designating them as such. Brookfield has done an outstanding job in this regard lately. We should follow their lead.

There should be a movement in town to take back the view. We could call it, something like, I don't know, how about "Take Back the View". There are so many places in Sturbridge that at one time had wonderful views, but are now overgrown and forgotten. I'm all for trees, but I am also all for the beautiful views our town has to offer. If one wants to see trees, look to the left, if one wants to enjoy a fantastic view, look to the right. Areas along Route 148 beside Long Pond had an incredible view of the lake at one time. Along Route 20 beside Cedar Lake is another place, and on Route 20 heading into Brimfield. These are all places that would generate "oooh's and aaah's" from residents and travelers alike if the view was restored. All it takes is some planning, a chainsaw, and a chipper, and Voila! It's like changing the curtains in your living room from heavy winter drapes to a summery white lace. Same room, whole different feel.

OK, I've emptied out a lot of the excess from the "attic" this morning. It's like a yard sale. Take a few ideas, and thoughts, throw them out there for others to look over, and if they like them, they'll take them with them when they sign out, if not they'll leave them for someone else.

I feel lighter already.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's All About Choice

We try to use local businesses for the things we need around the house, and to grab a bite to eat. We frequent local restaurants, coffee shops, of course, and stores. If a local place doesn't have what we are looking for we will head out of town. For a small town, we have a great deal of services, and goods offered to us here in town.

JC Penny, on Main Street, is awesome. Not only does it have quality clothing, but shoes, and things for the bedroom as well. Yes, Wal*Mart has them, too, but I am talking quality here. Wal*Mart is great for that extra pair of jeans, some socks, maybe so T-shirts, or a some "play clothes", but JC Penny has all that, and of a higher quality. It's nice to have a choice, even nicer to have one in a small town.

Of course, we also have Old Navy, and Marshalls here in town, so our choice is even better than most towns.

Things like this ease their way into our lives, and soon we can take them for granted.

Although we don't have a hardware store here in Sturbridge, there is one I frequent a great deal just over the town line in Brimfield. The True Value hardware store in on Route 20, and not only sells hardware, but gas, camp wood, and dog houses as well. Nice place, with nice folks, and sure beats the heck out of running to Home Depot in Auburn or Aubochons over on the south end of Southbridge.

I could spend the morning writing about the restaurants here in town, but suffice to say, we have enough to offer a good choice in menus. We are lucky to have so many choices.

Everything from cell phones, to jewelry, to fresh produce, to fresh fish is sold here in town. We have a choice from several gas stations here in town as well. The price between stations can vary as much as 20 cents per gallon at times.

Choice is good, and our choices here in Sturbridge are far better than most places.

There are a few things that I feel we could use here in town, but for the most part, for a small rural town, we are doing quite well.

Local businesses rely on our using them in order to stay in business. If the service is good, the prices are right, and the staff friendly, then there is little reason to shop elsewhere.

Monday, July 6, 2009

If You Build It...Well, You Know the Rest

I was reading in the paper this week about making Sturbridge more "walkable". I'm glad there has been some recent discussion on something I have written about a few times over the past year and a half. Sturbridge is in a strange position. It is a large area, and its retail/commercial area is spread along the entire length of Main Street. Several miles of Main Street.

Not very walkable.

It is not very walkable for a few reasons, and only one being the distance. Another reason is the lack of infrastructure. Sidewalks and crosswalks just don't exist in some places.

I think that the planners need to look at this from another angle. Yes, being "walkable" is not only great for residents, but for those that visit us as well, but we need to look at dividing the areas up. A primary area would be the Historic District from I-84 to Hall Road on Main Street. Although sidewalks are coming, there is little to walk to along this route. The Common, the Publick House, Sadie Greens, the Post Office, and the Town Offices are all that is available currently along this route. Walkablity means much more than having a walkable distance on safe infrastructure such as sidewalks. It also means that there are destinations that would make walking more enjoyable, and better than using a vehicle. A convenience store on this route would help make this route more walkable. For more information on what makes an area "walkable" go to But, this is an "Historic Area", and a general store would be out of place, even though there had been one in this area for 200 years.

While reading the paper I read that someone said that in order to make the town more walkable, there had to be "destinations" first.

I have to disagree.

I hate to use such a corny quote, but if you build it, they will come.

If one wants to attract businesses, or attractions to an area, the first thing a business person is going to look at is the traffic in the area, both vehicular, and foot traffic. That will give them some idea just how their venture would do in the area. If there was little or no traffic, then it would not be the place to invest in.


Yes, an ultimate destination is always a good thing. It's like building a road. One may need a road from Puckertown to Smootsville where there is not a road now. Build the road, and the first objective is completed, a route between towns, and that new route will attract businesses to fill in the spaces in between. See, traffic = business opportunities. Simple.

So, a walking route along Main Street in Fiskdale to Route 148 would be a great route to start with. Add a nice walking trail on the River Lands on the south side of the Quinebaug River and connect that trail to Main Street by a couple of footbridges, maybe one near Dunkin' Donuts, and the other behind the Market Place at the Falls, and you have made not only more destinations, but an attractive route on which to walk. New, safe sidewalks on both sides of Route 20, ample crosswalks, better traffic lights, public parking, and signage would also help tremendously.

A good investment must be made first, and when done, the businesses will fall in place. Traffic will increase, both by car, and by those parking and walking.

Currently, there is little to attract the foot traffic to Main Street. It needs window dressing. Period lighting, brick sidewalks, flowers, better signage, burying the utility lines, and parking are a must, and unless done, we will be doomed to the same 'ol. same 'ol along this road: busineses open, struggle, and close.

I am happy that there is more talk about making our town more walkable. In order to meld the current infrastructure into more viable future one, we need to hire a planner that specializes in just such things, otherwise we will bumble about with meeting after meeting talking about how good it will be, but with no one in charge, or having a clue as to how to proceed.

To find out how your neighborhood ranks in "walkability" go to, and plug in your address, or any other address here in town. We don't do well at all. There are a number of factors considered when scoring a particular address, and we do have the power, and desire to improve our scores.