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, September 24, 2012
One comment mentioned flags and banners on the utility poles around town. The ones we have are an excellent example of community pride, but most have come down, and need to be replaced with more. Better yet, a different one. Some places change them whenever there is something major happening in town, perhaps ours could change them twice a year. Originally, the town made a deal with Verizon, whose poles they are, that the banners would only stay up for a short time, but they've been left up a lot longer than originally agreed upon. A new agreement, and new banners would be a good thing.
Traffic lights. Yes, the town can have traffic lights put where they are needed. It's all a matter of funding. Watch how fast they go up in other towns when a new plaza is built and the builders pay for the traffic lights at their entrances. Their money speeds the hands of time, our money slows it hoping for some money to fall from the coffers in Boston. Bottom line, yes, lights can go in, but there is a process, which also takes money. If they are needed, and they are, it is one more thing for a true grass roots organization to put on their list to fight for.
Can we make this town more attractive, and look like Holden, or Shrewsbury? Of course. An official committee with volunteers, the right to appropriate money, and to spend money, and a set plan will do wonders. However, that would probably be only the "frosting on the cake", it is the cake that needs the work. Bury the utility lines, install nice street lighting, new sidewalks, and other positive changes to our crumbling infrastructure is needed first. Holden and Shrewsbury renewed first, decorated later. Again, get those strong, outspoken people in town that need a cause, and get them involved in a grassroots committee to invoke changes that aren't being handled fast enough at town hall.
Sewer service on Rout 15. I wrote how this was needed years ago. The town wants to attract business to Route 15, but not offer water or sewer service. No wonder the area has seen nothing happen. Put in sewer, and water, market the area, and watch what happens. A Wrentham Outlet type business? Why not? Take advantage of our location and those two interstates in town. Other towns would give anything to be in our position.
We can not expect Old Sturbridge Village to be the sole reason why people come to town. Give them more, and they will have lunch at the Public House, dinner at the Cedar Street Grill, and then tour the Village.
Who will pay for the sewer? Those choosing to connect to the sewer will pay the lions share like it has always been done in town.
I do have to agree a bit more with some of the comments regarding Sturbridge having no high end stores, and there is a need. We are not high end in Sturbridge. There are only pieces of that in town. At one time, those in Sturbridge may have thought of themselves as being upper income, and high end, but that was many years ago, but not today. The town is not as attractive to the person driving through as is Shrewbury. The infrastructure has been allowed to go into disrepair, and obvious safety issues such as the intersection of New Boston Road and Route 20 are ignored. These are all things seen by visitors. No, we are far from being a Lincoln, Weston, Dover, Newburyport, or even Holden, or Shrewsbury.
Bass Shoes, Van Heusen, both big names, left. The Gap left. Old Navy did as well, but not by choice, the lease was the issue this time. Bath and Body Works, all gone, and many others over the years. There was a time when we did attract "the big names", even in the 1990's, but not so much today. Even the new gas station on Route 131 is a "no-name" business. At this rate we will become Genericville,and dollar stores will begin to spring up.
Now, not only do we need to change our thinking, but we need to change our actions, and not rely on what those in the town hall want to do, but rather what we want them to do for us. One voice won't cut it, unless it is a loud voice. Loud enough to speak over the regular bluster, and falderall we witness on cable TV. Many voices would make a better impact.
We need to take back control of our town, or stop whining about it.
Let's see what happens. I am hoping for the best, but inside I know we'll be talking the same talk next year at this time.
Prove me wrong.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Old Sturbidge Village did have its ups and downs as well, but over the past several years has rethought itself, and has down amazingly well. They rethought themselves, and that act has renewed The Village. It is way overdue for Sturbridge to rethink itself, or if they are in the midst of a ponder, then speed it up a bit and start to show results.
Someone needs to take charge.
Sidewalks along Rout 20 are impassable to those with wide strollers or electric carts, wheelchairs, the number of crosswalks for a tourist town are few.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Sturbridge finally has a Movie Theater. But, how do we know what is playing? If you have a computer you can Google "Cinamagic" and find out or you can page through newspapers and you might find a listing of movies currently showing at various movie houses including Cinamagic. You won't find out what is playing by driving by Hobb's Brook on Rt. 20, nor will you find out by going into Hobb's Brook and driving by Cinamagic, because there are no signs anywhere to indicate what is playing at the movies.
When Cinamagic first opened I asked a Town employee, who should know, why there were no signs and I was told the owners of Cinamagic didn't want a sign. Recently, I asked a Town official the same question and was told the Town wouldn't allow a sign.
My point is Cinamagic needs a sign if they want to stay in business. I was there twice during the week and found six and two other people at the movie I attended, respectively. And, there was no one in the lobby either of those times. Fortunately, for Cinamagic, business was better on the Friday night I attended.
Whoever is responsible for the lack of a sign needs to rethink the decision if they want to see Cinamagic succeed. I know I certainly do.
Great Article, Barbara! You raise some great questions. Anyone have a clue?--ed.