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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Good News!

Back on September 15th Selectman Tom Creamer let us all know that the front doors of the town hall had received a variance for full and permanent use from the Architectrula Access Board of the commonwealth.  I wrote about that long awaited news back then.  In the comment section of that post someone wrote:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the efforts and the news about the front door at the Town Hall. Can anyone give us the status regarding the doors at the old school house across the street? It does seem to be a safety issue having only one door accessible to everyone from the outside.

Yesterday I received the following email:

Greetings All,

I am pleased to announce that I was contacted today by Mr. Thomas Hopkins - Executive Director of the Architectural Access Board - and was informed by him that the A.A.B. has “…granted the Town of Sturbridge variance relief to 521CMR Section 25.1 for the main entrance to the Center Office Building. Thus, we have now been approved to implement full access to the Center Office Building via the front doors, similar to that received two weeks ago for the Town Hall. This of course is welcomed news and brings closure to a nearly 3-year odyssey, which was sadly based upon inaccurate and incomplete information that has been associated with this issue since the inception of the renovation plans.
As previously stated in an earlier correspondence associated with the variance approval for the Town Hall, though this issue predates nearly all current members of the Board of Selectmen, it became our responsibility to rectify this issue once we became knowledgeable of its existence; to that end, there was uniform commitment among all members to have this issue corrected on our "our watch". As such, I, as an individual member of the Board, extend my personal thanks to all members for the unanimity of resolve in bringing a successful conclusion to this challenge.

In addition, I extend my personal thanks to Executive Director Tom Hopkins for the proactive approach he took in addressing this issue on our behalf. His initial outreach, followed by a public meeting with the Board of Selectmen and his continued efforts in support of assembling and reviewing the required information prior to submission for determination by the Architectural Access Board provides a clear example of government at its best. Regardless of what the outcome may have ultimately been, Mr. Hopkins took the time to work with us and ultimately guided us to a successful conclusion. That said, I extend my thanks to Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski as well for working closely with Mr. Hopkins, while drafting, assembling, and presenting two variance requests that were viewed very favorably by the A.A.B. Shaun's efforts were commendable.

Moving forward, it is worth noting that the Board had previously instructed the Town Administrator to undertake the measures necessary to address the required hardware allowing for emergency access to the front of the Center Office Building and as that process is underway, we will soon be able to utilize same for all non-disabled access and egress. 


Thomas R. Creamer - Chairman, 
Sturbridge Board of Selectmen
Town of Sturbridge
308 Main Street
Sturbridge, MA 01566

Mobile: 774-696-0903

When the anonymous person left the comment I wanted to respond, "Wait for it, wait for it...", but restrained myself.  I knew it would be handled as well.  Some people do not like to leave a job half done, others are satisfied to accept the status quo.  For those people that  like to make sure things are put right, they feel that it would be a reflection on them, or the group they are associated with not to. Some may say it's an ego thing, I believe it is a simple mater of just doing the right thing for the right reasons.  We are fortunate to have a few folks like this in that newly restored town hall.  

It's a matter of turning ones energy toward good, and productive work such as righting the screw ups with the entrances in the two newly restored buildings.

Keep it up, people, there is is a whole lot more to be done in town, and from my vantage point, you're doing swell.

"Welcome To The Graveyard" Presentation October 19th

North Cemetery in Sturbridge, Massachusetts
© W. Hersee

(Worcester, MA)  Cemetery educators, The Gravestone Girls, whose mission is to “Keep Our Dead Alive”, will be presenting a virtual tour, called “Welcome to the Graveyard”, centered on Sturbridge’s three local cemeteries at the Sturbridge Town Hall, Wednesday, October 19st at 7pm.  As guests of The Joshua Hyde Public Library, The Gravestone Girls’ 90 minute presentation is built on photographs recently taken in these special and interesting burying places around Sturbridge, which was incorporated in 1738, and charts the evolution of cemeteries and gravestones from the colonial era into the 21st century.

This is a popular program that has been given around the New England area by The Gravestone Girls for the past ten years.  The group regularly works with libraries, historical societies and genealogical groups, among others, to teach about “the art, symbolism and history of these living history museums located on everyone’s mainstreets and backyards” says Ms. Sullivan, one in the group of three cemetery enthusiasts.  She further added “Almost everyone is interested in these peaceful and beautiful spaces, but may be hesitant to say so to others.  Our presentation lets you know you’re not the only one.  Come see what we do, we fill the room every time!”

For a detailed calendar of this and other Gravestone Girls’ events please visit   Further information can also be found at the library at 306 Main Street.  The address of the Town Hall where the event will be held is 308 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA.

The Gravestone Girls not only provide interesting historical cemetery presentations, they also create beautiful and unusual sculpted art pieces using the primitive art from the faces of original New England gravestones as well as teach gravestone rubbing classes and lead cemetery tours.  Their gravestone art is shown regularly at art and craft festivals.  Often commissioned for documentation and fundraising projects utilizing special aspects of important cemeteries and gravestones, they have executed these public and private projects for clients nationwide.  The evening’s presentation will include a variety of gravestone castings from their 100+ image collection, as well as the opportunity to purchase these lovely art pieces.

Contact Information:   Brenda Sullivan
Company Name:  The Gravestone Girls
Address:  16 Schussler Road, Worcester, MA  01609
Telephone:  508.212.3162


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harvest Days at Old Sturbridge Village Oct. 15-16

Heirloom vegetable harvesting, grain threshing, cider-making, and more

(Sturbridge, Mass.) --The fall harvest was one of the most important times of the year in early New England and Old Sturbridge Village celebrates it accordingly during its old-fashioned Harvest Days weekend October 15-16. Visitors can see the ox-powered cider mill in action (Saturday only), take part in hands-on crafts, tour the root cellar, and help with old-time harvest activities like threshing and winnowing grain, shelling corn and beans, churning butter, and putting an herb garden “to bed” for the winter. For details, call 1-800-SEE-1830 or visit

Not only can visitors enjoy the Village’s brilliant fall foliage at its peak, they can take part in the harvest by helping to pull up root vegetables and by picking apples using19th-century methods.  They can also taste some of the nearly 100 antique apple varieties being preserved in the Old Sturbridge Village orchards.  Most of these heirloom apples are not available in contemporary supermarkets. OSV farmers will be grinding apples at the Cider Mill on Saturday and pressing the pulp for its juice on Sunday.

Although most people today associate autumn harvest time with fall foliage and “leaf peeping,” for early New England farm families, it was a “make or break” season. They worked long days to harvest and put away enough food to last until the first harvest the following summer. With no refrigeration, preserving the newly-harvested food was an important element of the season to ensure that families had enough to eat throughout the winter and spring. During Harvest days, OSV visitors can learn about food preservation methods used in the 1800s and how these can be applied today.

Offering some of the best foliage views in New England, Old Sturbridge Village is a favorite autumn destination – especially with photographers. Among the most photographed scenes are of the Village’s authentic Concord stagecoach rolling past brilliant sugar maples on the Common, and its 19th-century Vermont Covered Bridge framed in brilliant foliage and reflected in the Mill Pond.

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in early New England from 1790 – 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Currently, the Village is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $7 for children ages 3-17; children under 3 are admitted free. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days. Woo Card subscribers get 25% of adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive 50% off adult daytime admission. For details, visit or call 800-SEE-1830.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Soft, and Subtle Arrival

Wetland beside Long Pond on Champeaux Road in Fiskdale.

It arrives softly.  A subtle announcement made by changing light.  The angle of the sun becomes more acute, and its rays, reflecting the changes on the leaves, do not stay as long as just a few days before.

Color abounds.  We are being purposely immersed in it.  Soon, there will be a time when our living color world steps back to kinescope black and whites, and it will seem like a millennia until the first pieces of crocus colors emerge from beneath the snow.

Enjoy our color now.  

Walk in the light in the early morning, and again in late afternoon.  Experience a different feeling for each time of day.  

Smell the air.  The colors have a scent all their own, and they are recognizable.  Your head will whirl back in time and take you to those walks to school when you were eight.  As you walk on top of those leaves already fallen, listen as the colors are released underfoot as you step, and join the other scents around you.

This is so much more than a mere "change of seasons".  It can be as subtle, or intense as you would like, and all it costs is to be aware.

Enjoy the light.  Smell the colors.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thank You, Tom

Some effort, tenacity, and a little time is all that it took.  Thank you Shaun, Tom, and the other members of the Board of Selectman for your commitment.

From a silly oversight, to making it right in our lifetime is truly amazing.

Selectman Thomas Creamer  Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 12:09 AM

Greetings All,

I am pleased to announce that this past Monday, I received a communication from the Executive Director of the Architectural Access Board – Mr. Thomas Hopkins – that the A.A.B. has “...granted the Town of Sturbridge variance relief to 521CMR Section 25.1 for the main entrance to 308 Main Street, the Sturbridge Town Hall”. Simply stated, this means that the Town has formerly received permission to engage full and permanent access via the front doors of Town Hall.

The variance was conditional to an upgrade specific to the handrails leading to the front doors and in support of same, the Town Administrator has already requested and received plans from the Architect consistent with the A.A.B.’s condition. This is a relatively simple fix and the Town Administrator reports that we will “...get the work accomplished through the TH/COB (Town Hall/Center Office Building) project budget”; thus it will require no additional funding.

Though unfortunate that the variance request was not undertaken prior to construction - as part of the original project scope – it is now behind us and can serve as a “teaching moment” for all future projects. That said, I would like to extend my gratitude to current members of the Board of Selectmen who supported continued efforts to pursue this matter and have it corrected on “our watch”. Though predating nearly all of us on the current Board, it became our responsibility to rectify the issue once we became knowledgeable of its existence and there was uniform commitment by all to see this resolved successfully.

In addition, I extend my deepest gratitude to Mr. Tom Hopkins who took the time to reach out to our community, offer his guidance, and pledge his support in assisting us through this process. His efforts have been a power of example to all in terms of proactive and responsible governance. Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski for drafting and assembling a variance request that was viewed quite favorably when received by the A.A.B..

-- Respectfully,


Thomas R. Creamer - Chairman, Sturbridge Board of Selectmen Town of Sturbridge 308 Main Street
Sturbridge, MA 01566 Mobile: 774-696-0903
Fax: 615-634-0903
When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property. - Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Local National Public Lands Day Events Announced

Volunteers needed for Tornado cleanups and trail building projects.

Sturbridge: The Regional Grand Trunk Trail Committee in partnership with the Grand Trunk trailblazers and Opacum land Trust have announced area National Public Lands Day (NPLD) with work projects to be held on Saturday, Sept 24th from 8:30 am to noon and a special trail building training program in the afternoon.  Work projects include a focused tornado clean up for the waters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers East Brimfield Lake and 2.8 miles of the Grand trunk trail in Brimfield as well as trail building projects in Sturbridge and Southbridge.  A special trail building training program will be held on Saturday afternoon at Opacum Woods in Sturbridge.  The specific project areas and registration information are:

Brimfield: Clearing trails of downed trees and debris along 2.8 miles of the Grand Trunk Trail.  Meet at the Five Bridge Rd trail head parking lot at 8:30 for registration.  Crews will be dispatched from that location with chainsaws, brush chippers and trash bags to clear the trail of woody debris and trash.  Volunteers are asked to wear sturdy shoes, bring work gloves and a water bottle.  A Pizza Lunch will be provided to all volunteers at noon.  For further information contact Park Ranger Tom Chamberland at

East Brimfield Lake: Boats and canoes are needed to patrol the lake and shoreline to remove debris blown in by the tornado.  Volunteers are also need to help unload the boats into the dumpster.  Meet at the East Brimfield Reservoir Boat Ramp located on the South side of US RT 20 on the Brimfield/Sturbridge Town Line, across the street from Velvet Green Gardens.  If you can donate the use of your boat/canoe please make sure to bring appropriate PFD’s.  Volunteers need to wear shoes you can get wet, bring work gloves and a water bottle.  Pre-registration is requested by calling 508-347-3705 or emailing Park Ranger Tom Chamberland at  Onsite registration begins at 8:30 am. A Pizza Lunch will be provided to all volunteers at noon.  A boat/canoe washing station will be set up at the East Brimfield Dam, 24 Riverview Ave after the event.

Sturbridge: Two projects are being set up by the Trail committee; work on spreading the fine gravel surface on the Arbutus park trail on the Leadmine Mt Property and building a 150’ bog bridge for the Stafford Turnpike trail on the Heins Farm Conservation lands. For the Arbutus park work small tractors, and wheel barrows are needed, as well as volunteers to clean up the trails of small tree debris from the tornado, for the Bog Bridge a few volunteers with carpentry skills are needed and general laborers to help lay out the wood planks and sleepers.  Registration for both projects will take place at the Heins Farm Trail head parking lot, 197 Leadmine Rd at 8:30 AM, bring work gloves and a water bottle, a pizza lunch will be served at noon. Pre-registration is requested by calling 508-347-6340 or emailing Randy Redetzke at

Southbridge: Work projects include invasive plant removal and scraping and painting the hand rails on the ADA ramp for the Heritage Trail located by the lower West St School soccer fields.  Meet in the lower parking lot at 8:30 AM registration; bring work gloves and a water bottle.  All other hand tools will be provided.  Pre-registration is requested by emailing Scott Benoit at

Opacum Woods in Sturbridge, on Saturday Afternoon from 1:30 to 4 PM all trail enthusiasts are invited to join Scott Linnenburger, the Sturbridge Trail Committee and members of Opacum Land Trust in a unique single track trail build training program.  Scott Linnenburger is a professional trail builder with over 15 years of trail building experience from all over the country.  Scott has been hired by the Town to develop at town wide master plan of trails and as a part of the educational outreach of this master plan process is conducting this trail building exercise.  Scott will cover the how, what and why of building sustainable single track trails which are the most favored trails of cross country hiker and Mt Bike enthusiasts.  A special thanks to the trustees of Opacum for allowing this training to go forward.  Meet at the Opacum Woods trail head.  To get to Opacum Woods, take New Boston Road from Route 20 in Sturbridge, just east of the 131 intersection. Take your fourth right into The Preserve subdivision, and then your second left on to Old Brook Circle. The Trailhead is at the end of the cul-de-sac. The program starts at 1:30 PM, please wear sturdy shoes, and bring work gloves and a water bottle. For more information contact either Randy Redetzke or Tom Chamberland.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Tenth Anniversary Moment

An iPhone photograph of two deer families in a meadow at dusk.

Last evening, after a great birthday dinner for Jennifer, and after the house had become quiet again, Mary and I took a drive.  We drove into Holland, and then started heading north towards Brimfield.  Suddenly, at the corner of Holland Road, and Five Bridges Road Mary yelled, "Stop! Stop!".  There, in the field to our right, were six white-tail deer.  A couple of fawns, half the size of two large males, and two does.  Just grazing in the field, a couple of families out for the evening.  Seems, like we weren't the only ones out enjoying the air last evening.

The two little ones pranced, and ran about the field, and all around the older deer.  Mary handed me her phone to grab some pictures.

The full moon was just then appearing over the tree tops.  The sun was breathing its last light of the day onto the meadow.  The scene was beautiful, so filled with life.

After a few minutes, one of the females raised her tail, exposing the brilliant white underside, and started to skip towards the tree line, the two little ones were still leaping about until another female joined the first near the edge of the woods.  The fawns spotted the alarm signal of the raised white tail, and joined their mothers.  The two males, stayed behind watching us as they had been doing all along.  The wind may have shifted a bit, and not only were we being seen, now our scent confirmed just who we were.  The two families stood at the tree line, and we got back into the car.  Vigilance, and wisdom in the meadow last evening will insure their play for another day.  A pickup truck had stopped further up the road, and its occupants were watching the show with us until that final bow at the tree line.

All those deer prancing in the meadow on a late summer evening was one of those moments one does not forget.

Life.  It's all around us, on us, and in us, and it will taken away from us someday.  Always too soon. Still, for those left behind life does continue, and the world keeps on spinning.

Those deer are testament to that piece of simple philosophy.  They're still here.  Despite that we felt our world was ending ten years ago as it did for thousands of others, life did continue.  We did carry on.  We grew stronger, wiser, more vigilant, cautious, but we did not let our losses stop us from living.  We knew that if we had stopped living we would have lost.

So, we lived.  We directed our sorrow, and anger toward the need to insure it would never happen again, to care for those left behind, to carry on the legacy, and memory, of those that have fought to make us safe since then, and were no longer among us.  All require life.

Last evening, as we stood on the side of the road, and watched those deer living, playing, and being still here, it was didn't take much to realize that we had made it, too, and had not squandered life.  Our mindset enabled it, and others had insured it.  Many had given their life to insure it.

That was my 9/11 anniversary moment.  It came late in the day on the edge of road alongside a meadow, and next to my wife.  Couldn't think of a better place, or company, to experience that moment.

View Larger Map

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sunday Morning Thought

Nothing I can say could add to the countless words already written.  Today, all I can do is reflect, think about what has been, what could have been, and pray we don't ever see another day like we saw on that September morning so many years ago.

Prayer, and reflection.  So passive, yet all powerful.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Well Worth The Wait!

Last night we enjoyed a wonderful evening of music on the common at Old Sturbridge Village followed by fireworks over the fields. Despite the tornado, and the hurricane, it was a great celebration, and a wonderful evening.

Fireworks over the Freeman farm at Old Sturbridge Village.

The Heritage String Band played 19th century melodies on
the common at Old Sturbridge Village.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yes, It's Flooded, But That's Good

Click on images for larger image.
The little parking lot outside
the main gate.
If you have driven to the Westville Recreation Area in the  past several days you probably saw the scene at the left.  The area is totally flooded from Hurricane Irene, but it's supposed to flood like this.  It's all according to plan.
After the floods from the 1938 hurricane that swept through the Sturbridge and Southbridge area, and the further flooding from the hurricanes of the 1950's, the Federal government decided to build some dams along the Quinebaug River to prevent any future flooding, and property damage.  Locally, the East Brimfield Dam in Fiskdale was constructed, and the Westville Dam in Southbridge.  Together, since they were constructed, they have prevented millions, and millions of dollars worth of damage from happening to the towns along the river.  Last weekends deluge of rain, that accompanied Hurricane Irene, was no different, the dams handled the water well, and so much damage was prevented by their being there. 

The athletic field, and parking lot
are under all that water.
Normally, the "pool" behind the Westville Dam, a swollen part of the Quinebaug River called Westville Lake,  is about eleven feet deep, and covers 23 acres.    If needed, such as with heavy rains from a hurricane, the drainage area of 99.5 square miles surrounding the dam can fill the pool to 55 feet deep, and the pool can then spread out and  cover 913 acres!  The recreation area behind the dam is there to give a secondary purpose to all that open land.  That open land has a primary purpose beyond recreation.  Its purpose is a collection area for all the excess water that comes with heavy storms.  The dam then releases the water in manageable amounts, and it flows downstream.
The High Water mark is in the middle
of the photo, on the far left.

In recent years the East Brimfield Dam, and the Thompson Dam in Connecticut, have taken some of the water load away from Westville and allowing the pool at Westville to be drawn down lower than normal during normal water flow.  This is due to seepage below the dam at Westville.  The dam is leaking.  The seepage is monitored constantly by the Army Corp of Engineers, and a temporary plan to repair the dam is in the works as a permanent repair is designed.  Those "antennae" like rods sticking out of the top of the dam with the solar panel on the top are piezometers, and there are a lot of them.  Their job is to monitor the leakage down below the dam.  

The recent storm filled the pool up to the old high water mark, and that put a great deal of pressure on the dam.  This is something the Corp does not want to happen for the long term.  Not until a fix is made.

The Pool

In light of Westville seeping, and leaking, I hope that a remedy, and fix is found soon.  The dam survived last weekend, but I don't want to stretch our good fortune to the breaking point.In the meantime, we can be very thankful that the dams did work, and they worked well.  I would not want to contemplate the amount of flood damage Irene alone would have caused, not to mention all the other storms over the past 50 years, if those dams were not where they were.

Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers we have stayed a lot drier over the past 50 years, and I hope for many more years to come.  

The bike / walking trail on the
Sturbridge side of the
river is currently underwater.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is Going Underground Worth The Cost?

Underground utilities.  One would think that after 150 years of utility lines sitting on sticks alongside the road we would have come up with a better way.  Storms, and accidents have dropped power and communication cables onto the ground ever since we began putting them in the air.

So, why not bury them?  A couple of reasons:  cost, and location.  The cost of  million dollars a mile to bury the cables underground does not inspire the utility companies to change.  Government assistance would be great, but then there is the yearly maintenance cost that we would all end up paying.

Another reason that cables aren't placed underground more often is the location of the cables.  Areas prone to flooding aren't good, and utilities cannot be buried in places that are prone to water damage, still, many areas are perfect, and many special areas, such as along Route 20 in Fiskdale, are long overdue for a change in technology.

I guess until a new form of energy, and communication transmission is developed that eliminates hanging cables in the air, we can expect to loose services when the wind blows hard, or heavy snow and ice falls.  The cost to bring services back online is the cost of doing  business to the utility companies, and a lot less expensive than the cost of burying cables, maintaining, and repairing them.  To those of us affected by lost power, and services, it is trying.  Hours without an electric light is annoying.  Days without power are very trying, unless fully prepared with supplies, and a portable generator.

So, since an alternative form of power transmission is not on the horizon anytime soon, the only other options are playing the odds, and hoping for the lights to stay on, all the time, or installing a generator at the homestead.

The latter deserves some more thought.

"Should The U.S.Power Grid Be Underground?"

GENRAC  Generators.