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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are We There Yet?

We made it.

In the spring of 2010 it was official that we had made it through the financial debacle that was called the Great Recession, and in 2012 we can finally begin to take a well deserved deep breath.

Growth took a while to filter down to rural America, but despite the fact there are still wrinkles to iron out in the economy, industry is coming out of their bomb shelters, and beginning to rebuild.   We are finally seeing some of that rebuilding here in Sturbridge.

And, it's about time.

In the last few weeks it has been announced that a 1200 seat movie theater has been approved, and will be built in the former Linen 'n Things building at Hobbs Brook Plaza.  Corporations do not invest in new projects when the outlook is uncertain.  This is one more sign that our future is bright.

The former Basketville building has been purchased by two local dentists, and not only will their practices be located in the building, but other retail space will be rented out within the building as well as the out building.  A restaurant is also planned for the lower level.  The new owners have enough faith in where the area is headed  to invest their future in it.

The old Hebert Candy building at the corner of Haynes Street (old Route 15), and River Street has also been purchased by a local bio optical company that will locate offices, and labs in the building.  Other buildings on the site will be leased to other businesses.  The company needed space to grow.

Yes, they need space to grow.

Jobless rates are lower than one year ago, but until they are fully restored to pre-recession levels, we won't be fully "recovered".  With these new purchases, and projects, happening here in town, we are that much closer to being in that place again.

With all the dark economic news we all have endured since late 2006, it does a person good to hear this bit of great news for the area.

Yes, it is about time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

They're Back...

The Lewis Tree Service was active on Route 148 this week removing branches that have the potential to interfere with the National Grid power lines.

How well did they do?  Well, they did spend a lot of time in the 1/4 mile in front of our house, and part of that time was repairing the chute that guides wood chips into the back of the truck.   

I guess only time will tell, but the effort is acknowledged.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Indirect Effect

Just how would a casino in Brimfield affect us?  Well, it wouldn't affect us directly, except for the bump in traffic along I-84, and the Pike.  Restaurants, and shops won't feel an explosion in business unless folks that are going to the casino plan on doing some exploring before hand.  This would be doubtful since besides the destination, there is little else on the mind of a car full of people en route to a casino other than the casino.  After a visit to the slots, they, or their bank account may not be in the mood to stop by Old Sturbridge Village, either.

All the effects would all be indirect, but substantial.

One way a casinos presence next door in Brimfield would indirectly benefit the communities around it would be in the real estate market, and in businesses that would be in place, or come into place, to support a bump in population.  Home prices would naturally rise due to the demand for roofs over the heads of the workers that would build the facility, and those that will work there after it is built.  The current inventory of homes, and apartments, in the immediate area would soon be exhausted thus stimulating new construction.  Businesses that are  in place to support the construction would flourish.

A bump up in the areas population would spur businesses to support that bump.  Supermarkets would expand, and new ones built.  Roads repaired.  More banks would be built.  Pharmacies would be built.  Large childcare facilities would be attracted to an area with a sudden rise in population.  The areas support services such as fire and police would need to be adjusted.  Brimfield itself would see those departments grow, and of course, a deal with the casino owners would help with new equipment in town, and on the site of the casino.

More people, and more businesses would mean more taxes raised in area communities.  That will make any a town administrator smile.

All in all, a casino will take a long dormant economy in Central Mass, and give it a needed shot of B-12.  Once under its influence, it will be up to the nearby communities to insure the effect does not wear off before they accomplish the things that have been on their wish list, and start the things they will need to add.

This will most definitely be the shot in the arm we have dreamed of.  We may not always like the way our medicine is given, but most often we are happy with the results.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When The Tree Warden Warns About Poor Pruning We Need To Listen

It's obvious, the tree trimming sponsored by National Grid has been poor.  The result of the poor pruning was witnessed by us all in October.  Since then I have wondered whether this was due to the actual contracted tree service just going through the motions, or National Grid setting the bar, and expectation, far too low.  The email I received from Sturbridge Tree Warden, Tom Chamberland puts the acorn right in National Grids lap.

The Board of Selectmen need to play a bit of hardball with National Grid.  Testifying to the incompetence of National Grid during the storm was great, now they need to set standards for Sturbridge, and insist that they be followed to avoid a repeat of the October  power outage.

When a warning of a hurricane comes from a meteorologist on TV we listen, and act accordingly; when a warning about ineffective tree trimming comes from our Tree Warden we would need to be as attentive.  If we don't heed the warning, we'll be cursing National Grid in the dark again.

Snow damage to National Grid lines in Glastonbury Connecticut.
All of NationalGrid coverage area was out of commission due to
the early, heavy snow in October 2011.
"Wally: Attached are the pruning drawings that Nat Grid has contracted Lewis
Tree to trim [too] and has provided to the Town.

I also want to draw your attention to the line below: 

"Also note that this
clearance "window" does not imply that we will remove healthy, strong
overhang or mature leaders normally found throughout the entire system within
the clearance spec zone."

It is these very branches that I feel caused the majority of the outages.
The pruning that Nat Grid is proposing does very little to insure any real
"storm proofing"  Without being "up in the bucket" it is very hard to make a
call from the ground as to how strong a limb may be, and to only real way to
be sure the limb will not fail in a storm is to remove it, a line clearance
procedure called "blue skies" The real challenge  it to try to find that
balance, but as we deal with "mother nature" I'm not sure how successful one
can be.

Tom Chamberland
Tree Warden"

Click here to view the National Grid drawings, and procedure, for trimming trees in different areas.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Residents Challenge To The Candidates For Selectmen

Editors note:  The following was submitted by Sturbridge resident Ric Skinner.

A series of debates has been proposed to take place between the candidates for Selectmen for the upcoming Town election. I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge the candidates to address during the debates their vision and commitment to improving the Town’s Emergency Management Program and Disaster Response capabilities. As an Emergency Management professional and resident I have had the opportunity to work voluntarily with the Town Emergency Management Director and staff and have found them to be top notch in their dedication and in applying the limited resources they have at their disposal, however there are some serious shortcomings which recent disasters have underscored as critical needs to be improved, such as:

·         A functional and at least basically equipped Emergency Operations Center
·         A state of the art communications system and ability to alert residents with timely and relevant disaster information
·         Increase in number and variety of training opportunities to exercise “the system”
·         Capabilities to provide Emergency Managers and Disaster Responders with timely Situational Awareness and Decision Support tools
·         Better organization, training and utilization of volunteer residents willing to be active in disasters (e.g., Community Emergency Response Team, Map Your Neighborhood Program, Volunteer Resource Center)  

I’m sure it’s very difficult to run an Emergency Management Program with what I understand to be a “token” budget. I’m amazed Public Safety personal can carry out Emergency Management and Disaster Response function as well as they do with what they have. Fortunately, there are occasionally state or federal grants that help fund specific initiatives. But there needs to be more Town budgetary support such as a line item “Emergency Management Program” that’s more than just token.

As a former environmental management professional I love the wealth of trees and other environmental resources we have in Sturbridge. We’re fortunate that we have a compassionate and dedicated Tree Warden to care for this resource. However, the focus, effort and money for replacing damaged and destroyed trees is disproportionate to the need for being prepared for and responding to what caused those trees to be damaged and destroyed. The “disaster cycle” rolls smoothly when all four components – Planning & Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery – are adequately staffed, funded, trained, organized and exercised. While Response and Recovery are what all the residents see when a disaster strikes our community, Planning & Mitigation and Preparedness usually happen behind the scenes and are what keeps the residents safe between events and lessen the impacts of the events when they do occur.

Ric Skinner
Sturbridge Resident

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Old-Fashioned Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rally at Old Sturbridge Village Feb. 4, 2012

STURBRIDGE, Mass. (Jan. 16, 2012) – Old Sturbridge Village celebrates the history and the joys of horse-drawn sleigh driving with an old-fashioned sleigh rally on Sat. February 4. Antique horse-drawn sleighs – many of them 80-120 years old – will converge on the Village for the sleigh rally, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. and will feature dozens of drivers competing in a variety of categories, including the popular “Sleigh Dog” and “Currier & Ives” divisions. The event is open to the public and free with museum admission. Watch the OSV Sleigh Rally video; for all details call 800-SEE-1830, or visit

A variety of horses and drivers will be represented at the Old Sturbridge Village Sleigh Rally. At last year’s event, breeds included Haflinger, Standard Bred, English Shire, Gypsy, Clydesdale, Icelandic, Regular Mini, Morgan, Iberian Warm Blood, Pinto, Welsh, Arabian, and Friesian. Competition classes will include Pleasure Draft – Single Hitch; Pleasure Mini – Single Hitch; Pleasure Pony – Single Hitch; Pleasure Horse – Single Hitch; Sleigh Dog – All Hitches; Multi Hitch (Mini and Pony); Multi Hitch (Horse); Currier & Ives (Mini, Pony, Horse, and Draft Horse); Junior to Drive; Ladies to Drive; and Gentlemen to Drive.

Sleighs participating will most likely include bob sleighs, Portland and Albany cutters, racing sleighs, freight sleighs, and more. Bob sleighs have “bobs,” which are double runners that make them more maneuverable and easy to turn sharply.  Single runner sleighs can tip over if turned too sharply.

Other winter activities at Old Sturbridge Village include ice skating (bring your own skates), horse-drawn sleigh rides around the Common, and sledding on 1830s-style sleds (weather permitting). After enjoying the museum’s outdoor winter activities, visitors can warm up indoors beside one of the Village’s many cozy fireplaces and take part in hands-on crafts and activities. Children can also spend time “pretending” in Old Sturbridge Village’s popular “KidStory” indoor play area.

The real purpose of sleigh bells

According to Old Sturbridge Village historians, getting about in winter via sleigh over snow-packed roads was easier and smoother than navigating bumpy roads at other times of the year. Also, sleigh bells were for safety, not just for decoration.  The jingling sound prevented collisions since sleighs slid so silently over the snow.  As writer Samuel G. Goodrich observed in 1840: “…a sleigh and horse go so quietly and noiselessly on the snow that some warning to the ear is necessary, especially at night…”
After the first snow of the season, early New England families usually switched from wheels to runners, from carriage to cutter, and brought out the sleigh bells, foot warmers and fur robes. Moonlit sleigh rides were enormously popular, especially among the young and single. Goodrich wrote, “Parties of both sexes sit in sleighs as closely as they can be packed, and sometimes in each other’s laps.”

For Sleigh Rally enthusiast Anne Geyer, of Sturbridge, it is a thrill to drive in a sleigh at a forward trot when conditions are “just right” on a packed, swift snow surface.  “Imagine having the perfect horse and sleigh with a warm sleigh robe and foot warmers by your feet. The sleigh bells and saddle chimes sound terrific.  The driving horses love the sound of the bells and show off by carrying themselves proudly. The whole experience of driving a sleigh can be romantic and peaceful, especially at the end of a storm when no one else is out.”

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in the 1830s, and is one of the country’s largest living history museums. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., the Village is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Winter hours are Wed. - Sun. 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (the Village is open on all Monday holidays); Beginning March 31, 2012, the Village will be open seven days a week. Admission is: $24 for adults; $22 for seniors; $8 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 event details, visit or call 800-SEE-1830.

Contact:  Contact:
Old Sturbridge Village
Ann Lindblad 508-347-0323508-886-2689 cell

I Bet You Have An Opinion

Sometimes some of us find they have a weakness for certain things.  Those weaknesses lead to making poor decisions, and unless the actions from those decisions are kept in check, lives can be severely affected.

Over eating, alcohol, drug abuse, gambling are among some actions that initially started of with a decision.  Eventually, choice is no longer an option due the chemicals ones head is craving.

It is important to acknowledge that there are a percentage of the population that have a difficulty with some things others may not.  Those affected need support, and ways to function despite their hurdles.

I have never had an issue with any town I have ever lived in having a liquor store within its borders despite the fact there were those that had an issue with alcohol living in town.  The fact is that there were far more people that did not have a problem with alcohol than those that did.  Each town did have support programs available for those that chose to take part.

The same can be said for those that over ate, gambled, and abused chemicals.  Restaurants and food stores remained open, lottery tickets were still sold, and drug stores did not close up shop, and become a Starbucks.

That all being said, what about a casino resort here in Central Massachusetts?  Do we need a casino out here?


We need the jobs that will come from constructing such a venue, and the estimated 3000 plus jobs that will be available after it is built.  Employment opportunities in Central MA have never been great, and since the Great Recession hit in late 2006, employment has pretty much dried up.  Unless, you wanted a minimum wage job to support a family of four on, you were SOL.

If we could make the same number of jobs in another way, that would be awesome, but unless someone wants to build a theme park in Hardwick, or a Mall of America in Rutland, it simply ain't gonna happen, or even come close.  Here in the Heartland of Massachusetts we have been behind the low employment, low income eight ball for far too long.

MGM is currently promoting a resort casino it would like to build in Brimfield on 150 acres along the Mass Turnpike.  The plan is to build ramps from the Pike to allow people access to the casino.  There would be no access from the town side except for emergency vehicles.  This plan, and the footprint on the surface sounds very good.

Bottom line is that a resort casino IS going to happen in Massachusetts whether we want it  or not.

There will be many other ways a casino resort will affect the area.  Traffic along I-84, and the Turnpike will spike, and plans to allow for that will need to be made.  Real estate prices are going to rise.  All those construction workers, and future casino employees are going to need roofs over their heads.

The supermarkets in the area will be tested, and new ones may be built along with all those other little businesses that show up  with upward bumps in population.

So, here we are, at the crossroads of an age of poor employment, and all the positives that could come from new paychecks in Central MA, and our continued desire to live in an area that time has put on the back burner, sequestered off the beaten path.

Can we have it both ways?  Can it work?  We are in such dire straights now, and no one else has a plan.  I say go for it.  Go for it, and put in the controls to make it work well.

Now, sip your coffee, talk amongst yourselves, and let me know what I'm missing.

One more thing, don't get your shorts all in a bunch about gambling addiction, and how it ruins families, and lives.  That's a given.  We all know that, and wish it was another way, but this time let's stick with other arguments that are pursued less often.

Friday, January 13, 2012

OK, Let's Try This Again, And This Time, Get It Right

Today I received the email posted below regarding National Grid upcoming program for removing vegetation here in town.  National Grid was severely criticized  this past fall for the poor  manner in which they responded to the needs of the area during, and after the Halloween snow storm.  They were also taken to task for not maintaining the vegetation along the route of their power lines much of which fell onto the lines resulting in lost power all over Massachusetts.

Since 2006 I have seen the vegetation management folks, that National Grid had contracted, twice on Route 148.  Not bad, twice in 5 five years.  Now, I don't want to exonerate National Grid, but since I have witnessed the tree service company trimming trees along Brookfield Road, the entire blame cannot be laid on National Grid.  The tree service company must be held accountable as well since they left a great deal of vegetation hanging  that would affect the lines if storm like we had hit.  They did remove limbs, and branches, but no where near the amount that was needed.

The did the minimum, and collected their check.  This is obvious from the results last October.

So, we have a situation that not only had bad management of the vegetation, but a tree service company that did the minimum for whatever reason.  A bad combination of events that kept most of us with out electrical power for a week.

Question:  Who in town is going to follow behind the tree service company this time to insure that the vegetation is thoroughly removed, or do we wait until the next big storm to find out if the job was done right?

Greetings All, 

National Grid has announced that it is implementing Tree Trimming within the Town of Sturbridge in an effort to conduct some pro-active and preemptive maintenance. This is certainly welcomed news. You may recall from previous correspondence that during my sworn testimony to the Department of Public Utilities I specifically called out National Grid for a lack of "vegetation management" and requested their vegetation management records for the Town of Sturbridge for the last 10 years. Equally, in an official letter authored by Selectman Priscilla Gimas and myself - which is now part of the Public Investigation Record - we again reiterated the lack of preventative vegetation management program and again called for release of all vegetation management records for the last 10 years. 

Whether this official testimony - provided both verbally during hearings and by way of an official letter - has anything to do with the implementation of this "preventative vegetation management program" or is merely coincidental in its timing is an unknown; regardless, one would agree that this proactive and preemptive approach by National Grid is welcome news. The information released is as follows: 

Lewis Tree Service, working under contract for National Grid will be trimming trees for utility line clearance on the following streets beginning on or about January 24th and continuing until completed.

Residents who have questions regarding this tree trimming are encouraged to contact the phone #'s that were printed on the door hangers left by Lewis Tree over the past few weeks. Pruning guidelines to be used by Lewis Tree were approved by the Tree Warden.

Tree Trimming streets:
Holland Rd and all side streets
Brookfield Rd (Rt 148) and all side streets
Arnold Rd and all side streets
Cedar Street and all side streets
Stallion Hill Rd, North end of Leadmine Rd and all side streets
US RT 20 from Stallion Hill Rd west to Brimfield Town Line and all side streets.



Thomas R. Creamer - Chairman, 
Sturbridge Board of Selectmen

Town of Sturbridge

We Are That Much Closer To Having Our Own Miniplex


A very quick message to inform that this evening, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved the requested special permits for a multi-screen movie theater at Hobbs Brook. 

In addition, the ZBA approved the requested special permit for a medical device research and development facility to be located at the former Hebert Candies at River Road and Route 15. 

Though this does not complete the process for these projects, nor ensure their fruition, it is nonetheless a significant milestone for each.

As additional pertinent information becomes available, I will make effort to update if/as necessary.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let's Hope This Time It's A Wrap

It seems that there is a plan in place to turn the old Linens 'n Things store at the Hobbs Brook Plaza into an eight screen multiplex movie theater.

Wicked cool.

The excitement about the possibility of a movie theater
coming to town is palpable.
This is something that has been floated about a few times in the past.  Once, when the Hobbs Book area was being designed and built, but the theater never materialized.  There was a lot of negative feelings about building the plaza years ago, and whether or not it influence the theater not being built I don't know.  This time, it seems that a company is ready to take that long empty portion of plaza and turn it into something useful the whole community would enjoy.

The traffic study done a few years ago show that the added traffic can be handled by Route 20, and the Plaza itself.  With traffic, comes more people, and people carry wallets.  The stores at the Plaza will appreciate the new influx of wallets coming for movie, and maybe shooting over to Stop & Shop for something for dinner later in the day.  Dinner before, or after the film at Applebee's or Uno's would be convenient, too.

A movie theater would attract folks from all over central Worcester County.  The nearest movie complex is in Millbury.  Eight screens will be on the small side, compared to Millbury's theater, but for us it would be fantastic, and will most definitely fill a void in the area.

Anytime a new bunch of people are drawn to an area they would not have otherwise been drawn to is always great for the community, and the businesses within that community.  It gives us a chance to show off what we have to offer, and if we do it right, local businesses will be smiling a whole lot more.

Date night will be so much more convenient.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sturbridge To Broadway; February 4, 2012

Come sing about love with Broadway Road Trip's outing to New York City on February 4th to see Godspell on Broadway! Comfortable luxury motorcoach transportation will be provided by US Coachways from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to New York City for a day of fun, shopping, food, and, of course, the Broadway revival of Godspell!
Produced by Sturbridge Native KEN DAVENPORT
(formerly Kenneth Hasija),
son of Pam Soper and
Dr. Kenny Hasija 
Prepare ye for Godspell, the beloved classic from Stephen Schwartz, the Grammy® and Academy Award®- winning composer of Wickedand Pippin. Enjoy all the good gifts of one of the most enduring shows of all time as it comes to Broadway in a brand new, intimately staged, one-of-a-kind production. Raise your spirit with the Tony®-nominated score filled with the popular hits "Day By Day," "Learn Your Lessons Well" and "Turn Back, O Man".

This timeless tale of friendship, loyalty, and love has touched the hearts of countless theatergoers all over the world – and now you can join in the celebration as a spectacular ensemble of Broadway's brightest young stars, including Hunter Parrish (Showtime's "Weeds," Spring Awakening), Anna Maria Perez de Tagle ("Hannah Montana," "Camp Rock") and Telly Leung ("Glee," Wicked) stir your soul, raise your spirit and lift you right out of your seat. 


8am: Bus will promptly depart 330 Main Street, Sturbridge, MA to NYC!
11am: Arrive in New York City
11am - 2pm: Holiday Shopping on 5th Ave/Sightseeing in Times Square/Lunch on your own*
2pm: Make your way to Circle in the Square Theatre for 2:30pm performance of Godspell.
2:30pm - 5pm: Godspell (Circle in the Square Theatre)
5pm: Post Show talk back with Ken Davenport
6pm: Depart NYC back to Sturbridge, MA!
9pm: Arrive in Sturbridge, MA!

All reservations must be made by January 23, 2012! Once you have reserved your space, you will receive an e-mailed confirmation of your reservation. 
To book your trip click here.

To learn more about Godspell, visit

Editors Note:  The above copy is from

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Trail Survey

Please take a moment,  and take the survey concerning the trails here in Sturbridge.

Thank you.