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, May 10, 2010

We Need It, But Will We Like It?

One thing that cannot be put on a blueprint is the heart, and the soul of a place. As a result, the planning and design is done with respect to all things related to construction, and nothing as it relates to the feeling that the construction should give to us once complete.

Unless, of course, there is someone in the mix that is there to preserve the heart & soul of a place as it is transformed, repaired, or changed. With the current long overdue road construction on Route 131, I hope there has been "someone" local that has been involved since the beginning of the planning and design. Someone that has a knack of preserving all the soul, history, and good feeling we associate with the best part of the road way, and not loosing it in some efficient, sterile, pragmatic construction manner.

I know, a little late in the game to hope for something like this, but I figure at least this will put those in charge on notice. This is the Commonwealth of Mass we are dealing with, and I strongly doubt a whole lot of creativity was put into the design beyond the pragmatic.

What is the soul of a road? Remember how Route 20 looked before the State came in and made it "better"? It was a highway, but a highway that fit the landscape. One reason it was widened, "guard railed" all up, and a median strip laid down the middle was because of all the traffic the Brimfield Flea Market brought to the area hear after year, and the traffic problems that resulted.

Grant it, something had to be done, but something that was not only effective against the traffic problem, but also fit the landscape of our town would have been nice.

What happened to Route 20 is obvious to all of us. It was constructed in a way that worked, but was sterile. The design took the soul of the area away and uglified it with guardrails, and median strip.

Look at the photo to the left. It is of the old entrance into Old Sturbridge Village before the reconstruction of Route 20. Now think of what is there now.

'Nuff said.

The "new" Route 131 will be somewhat wider, the pavement will be milled down, or outright removed and redone in some areas, new drainage put in place, and a sidewalk will be constructed from Route 20 all the way to the Southbridge / Sturbridge town line. These are all great changes that will make Route 131 that much safer for motorists, and pedestrians as well.

All this work is welcome, and overdue. We need this. I only hope that in the end the new road will not only serve the purpose, but fit into our sense of place as well.

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