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, 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.

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