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
Friday, October 5, 2012
Is There Anybody Out There?
Yes, our infrastructure has changed bit over the past several years. A bridge was rebuilt on Haynes Street. Route 20 was widened 20 plus years ago, as was Route 148. Route 131 was rebuilt over the last couple of years. A new High School, a new elementary school. Restoration of the Town Hall, and the Center School. A new water treatment plant. These are all great accomplishments, but the town itself, the view offered to visitors has changed little, and is ignored.
Currently, we are a place to drive through on the way to the Village, or a restaurant, nothing more. I love the trails, but we are not anywhere near the point of attracting throngs of hikers to our town.
We need to admit to ourselves that major improvements are needed immediately, and put teams of people into office that have the same vision. People that will be strong leaders, and work towards our resurrection. An agreed upon agenda, and plan, to develop this Pot O' Gold we call home.
Currently, since there is little movement in that direction I can say we don't have the leaders that see Sturbridge's resurrection as a priority. They may wish, and dream that it may happen someday, but they don't have the ability to take us there. No fault of their own, we just need people that have that ability, and desire.
Is there anybody out there willing to work in this direction?
We also need to decide who we want to be. Do we want to be a tourist destination? A retail destination? Or, just a border town with nothing more to offer than a bed and a meal to those taking their wallets elsewhere?
I think we have decided on the latter by default.
Route 84 cut off old Route 15 long ago. Ovide's, once a popular place for tourists and locals alike burned down. The old Nichol's Nursery is gone. Howard Johnson's is gone. Hebert's Candy Mansion is gone. Other than going to the recycling center, or Roy Rogers, there is nothing to attract the townspeople to go up there any longer.ReplyDelete
What would it take? Business!
Have we been too restrictive, too demanding, too uncooperative, too unwelcoming, too icy? We hear voices at the town hall saying that we have been none of the above, but we have gotten the reputation somehow.
I listened to a planning board meeting, recently, where the plantings were discussed for a local auto body shop. The owners had been doing what the planning board required them to do regarding those plantings, except for a few small details. One of the planning board members complained to the others that she, apparently, was not satisfied.
So those folks were questioned at a subsequent meeting (The complaining member was not in attendance.) about their plantings, and eventually, the rest of the board decided to let them off the plant hook, after an explanation of the reasoning behind omitting a plant that would have been hit by the door, etc., and being told that the owners could not afford one more plant. Period.
These little details all cost the businesses time and money.
Somehow we have a reputation of not being business friendly. I wonder why?
There is definitely the need for people who will lead the charge to turn Sturbridge around. There are some of those leaders in place now, but there's so much fixing to do, and not enough time or money.ReplyDelete
Remember, most of the boards and committees in Sturbridge are volunteer. Those volunteers have fulltime jobs during the day or in the evenings, then they spend a good amount of time doing their volunteer duties, most which revolve around their own particular interests and talents. And during the rest of the week and weekends, they're tending to their family's needs.
So, when you ask if anyone is interested, I'd say there are a lot of interested folks. But there aren't many who are willing to make the type of unpaid commitment necessary to make the change you're talking about and who can blame them? Also, there are lots of varied interests and opinions about how to do it, including some that clash, but at this point, I think money is the root cause of not moving ahead as fast as everyone would like.
Sturbridge needs a fulltime economic development coordinator - someone who can build our local economy, tie it to a regional economy, plus write grants, for everything from trail grants to infrastructure, housing, and economic development grants. Doing so will help to offset costs of growing Sturbridge that would normally be borne by taxpayers.
Think about how much time you could commit to your ideas during the week and weekends while working fulltime, and then start thinking about ways to make it happen if you can't be part of it.
The answer is to hire a professional.
Most towns have board members that work, I can't think of any that don't. We are no different. A professional is a great resource, but the town would not hire one because of $ and some on some boards feel they are doing fine without a pro. We need to change the board members to those that are willing to bring us out of the 1960's.ReplyDelete
I'm wondering if some business people are against the development of Route 15 because it might mean competition, and if some others are trying to keep it undeveloped because of other personal money making agendas that they are yet unable to accomplish on that road.ReplyDelete
Folks who do want to get on certain committees are interviewed and depending on their answers they may or may not get the seat. Hopefully this is done fairly and more than one class of citizen is considered acceptable.
People from all walks of life live here, and all should be represented.
There's no evidence that "the town" would not hire a professional. The only way to know is to build a job description and then ask voters, even if the question is non-binding. Residents do not want waste and spending on frivolous things; they do want business here so it helps to control their taxes.ReplyDelete
I'm sure many people on committees feel they're doing a great job and in many cases, they are. But being stretched as they are, as are many of the town's employees with their jobs, I haven't seen any of the kinds of changes this blog is talking about - only talking and planning. But the talking and the planning is good because there's a guide for a professional to follow.
I agree with "Who is Acceptable" - all people must be represented. But from experience, many who serve on committees feel their own ideas and strategies are the best for Sturbridge and nothing more is needed. Consider that, one doesn't hire an architect to do the job of a marketer; nor would one hire a plumber to do an electrician's job.
If residents want to attract business, then hire a professional who has the know-how. Given a chance, even if only a short term experiment, I think residents would see good changes, bringing Sturbridge into the 20th century while maintaining and promoting its 19th century charm and attraction.
But if you build it, will they come?ReplyDelete
It takes a teeming population to keep brick and mortar businesses alive. Our area seems like an ideal place to drop a large shopping plaza in. But would people be willing to drive here to shop it?
Think about it, Auburn and Worcester have their own stores, Blackstone, Auburn Mall. Springfield, Palmer have theirs. To the Southwest, there's the stores in Vernon and the Buckland Hills shopping areas along I-84. So why would anyone want to drive to Sturbridge to shop? As good as it looks to us, I think the population in the surrounding region would say, "Why?".
I came from a megalopolis a number of hours south of here which sprawled across two states, and I visit back there nearly monthly. I can tell you that although I miss the conveniences of that area (two Lowes and four Home Depots within 10 minutes), and literally everything at your doorstep, WE here have a quality of life here that is incomparable. My wife and I ofen say that folks here should spend some time where we came from, and then they'd have a new appreciation of quality of life our area offers,
For me.... I've stopped my nightly prayers for a Lowes or Home Depot. If I need to go there, I'll stop in Auburn on my way home from work. If my wife wants to go shopping, we'll make a day of it in Manchester, CT. I predict that we won't see significant retail development in Sturbridge for a long time; decades. But that's good 'cause what do have here is quality.
If the town wants to attract people to public lands, they should be easy to find. Many folks in town just assume these are "known locations". In fact, they are only known to those who have lived here for decades. There are no signs in town. The information on the town website contain no driving direction, nor identify places to park. It does have great descriptions of the trails. Would be great to allow non-Townies find them. It's not hard to understand why people aren't flocking to Sturbridge to see it's natural beauty.ReplyDelete
I beg to differ. Most people who have lived here for decades do not know where the public lands are either. The people who own land abutting the lands the town bought know where they are because they are the ones who benefit by living by the buffer lands we have provided for them with our surtax dollars. I don't expect that they really want others on those public lands.