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, October 15, 2012

Main Street Improvement Proposals Wanted

Town administrator, Shaun Suhoski, would like to receive proposals on just how to improve Main Street (Route 20) from New Boston Road to Brookfield Road (Route 148).  They are estimating the cost of planning of the improvements to be $120,000.00.  This signals some serious planning.

I could say, "Shaun, me lad, read the past five years of this blog, and take notes", but let's assume that the TA has no clue this page exists, and has never read any of the input, suggestions, comments, and postings concerning improvements along the corridor from New Boston Road to Route 148 that have been made over that past 60 months, or so.

I will list the Top 21 here, and hopefully the TA will add them to his list.  I believe many of them are on his "To Do" list already.

  1. First, develop a design theme for the area.
  2. A large, well designed "Welcome To Sturbridge" sign on the median on Route 20.
  3. Traffic light at the intersection of Rout 20, and New Boston Road.
  4. Sidewalk from New Boston Road to the existing sidewalk on the north side of Route 20.
  5. Sidewalks on both sides of Route 20 to Route 148.
  6. New wider, sidewalks.
  7. Traffic light at the intersection of Route 20, and Arnold Road with pedestrian "button" to control the walk signal.
  8. The addition of a crosswalk, with a pedestrian controlled traffic light, at the existing traffic lights in front of the former Picadilly Pub, and across the street from the Mobil gas station.  This would allow safer access to Route 131, and the Common District.
  9. Bury the utility lines.
  10. Install new lighting along the sidewalks the entire way from New Boston Road to Brookfield Road.
  11. Install more crosswalks, and upgrade the existing crosswalks with simulated brick (stamped concrete), or some other design that will  be permanent, and not require re-marking every year.
  12. Banners, and or signs that promote our area hanging from poles along Main Street.
  13. A municipal parking lot. 
  14. Frequent sitting niches beside the side walk for people to rest while walking along our very long Main Street.
  15. Refurbishment of the stone walls that border the sidewalks.
  16. Revitalization of the mill area at the intersection of Route 20, and Holland Road, our western gateway.
  17. Removal of some of the trees along Cedar Lake on Route 20 in order to beautify the area with an unparalleled view of the lake.  
  18. Consistent, well designed, easy to read signage indicating the local points of interest, trails, shops, and lodging along the road, and at intersections.
  19. Markers, signs, plaques, like those in the small park beside the mill store, that explain the local history of our area.
  20. A river way park, with a footbridge,  that will connect Main Street to the trail on the south side of the Quinebaug River.
  21. Flower boxes / plantings on the median strip from the former Picadilly Pub to Cedar Street.
These are just a few of the ideas we have all had over the years, and have made them know here.  Many of the ideas are from the 1988 Master Plan.  

The list above is not a wish list, but a needs list.  All the items on the list are needed to be done, not "wouldn't it be nice" kind of things.  Without a face lift our town will continue to loose its shine, and will take on the luster of a town not cared for, or about.

The request for proposals is very encouraging.  I wish Mr. Suhoski, all the best in implementing the proposals into a grand plan for our town, but he can not do it alone.  He will need our input, and support.

Now, I am sure I missed a few things in the list above; what would you propose?

From the Worcester Telegram

October 11, 2012

Sturbridge wants plans to upgrade Main Street

By Craig S. Semon

STURBRIDGE —  Sturbridge is seeking proposals to develop a conceptual improvement plan for a two-mile stretch of Main Street. 

Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski said the town wants to make streetscape, pedestrian, parking and roadway improvements along Main Street (Route 20) from its intersection with New Boston Road at the eastern gateway through its intersection with Brookfield Road at the western gateway. 

The estimated cost of the planning project is $120,000.

“Sturbridge has seen a resurgence in new and re-investment along its commercial corridors over the past 18 months,” Mr. Suhoski said. “The focus of this study will be to support and re-invigorate the traditional commercial tourist area along Main Street while enhancing the gateways to the community.” 

At the eastern gateway, selective demolition and asbestos removal have begun at a vacant hotel. 

Plans for a new Holiday Inn Express were approved for the site several years ago, but the property owner has begun talking with the Planning Board about potential zoning adjustments for a restaurant and small bank branch on the site as well, Mr. Suhoski said. 

And at the western gateway, some have shown an interest in a commercial redevelopment of a former mill site at Holland Road and Main Street, Mr. Suhoski said. 

“The potential for keystone developments at each gateway location is very favorable if developers work with the town planner and planning board to meet the town’s vision for these areas,” Mr. Suhoski said. “Local officials realize that an open dialogue with the business sector to achieve the best possible development is also good for the residential sector, its tax base and local employment. Sturbridge is open for business.” 


  1. Indeed ! BURY THE UTILITY LINES should be number one !!!
    Add new "old fashioned style" Lamp light posts.. landscape the median/divide like Shrewbury Street in Worcester..
    Beautiful sidewalks, stonewalls and sitting benches would be wonderful too !
    A large sign to Welcome people to this new/old and beautiful town !

  2. How about a new road across town, somehow connect 148 to Cedar Street to reduce traffic on rt 20? Any construction, accidents, the Brimfield fair or other major event in town and traffic on rt 20 is a nightmare, increasing tourism will just add to it. There is no good way east/west except rt 20.

  3. I believe the 1988 Master Plan mentioned a by pass road running parallel to Route 20 to the north. Great idea, and for all the right reasons. I don't know if the idea was just that, or something actually considered. We do need an alternate east-west route in town.

  4. I think the obvious largest problem is that Rt 20/Main St is just too long! A lot of the suggestions are great BUT compared to a lot of other destinations (Freeport, Camden, Strawberry Bank, etc.) the walking distance and shops/mile just don't work - although Kittery makes it work but I don't see Rt 20 developing like Kittery. Is this the elephant in the room that nobody talks about?

  5. Yes, that'd be an elephant meandering down Main Street. Ideas?

  6. Who is that elephant?Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    If the elephant in meandering down Main St. is a tourist, he has no place to go. There is no concentration of fashion outlets, no ocean, no line-up of souvenir shops, no arcade or amusement, etc. He may go to OSV, which has its own gift shop and out to lunch. He may go to the Host which has its own self-contained basics and entertainment, and a McDonald's close by for those who wish not to spend over a certain amount on food. This elephant may desire an easier way to get to Friendly's on foot.

    If the elephant is a resident he expects to use his car to get things done. He might once in a blue moon take a stroll, but not often. Most all local elephants don't ever stroll down Main Street.

    Some local elephants can no longer drive, may use walkers or mobility scooters, and need to acquire the basics close by, and do need safe sidewalks (without telephone poles in the way), and crosswalks.

    I think we need to take care of our local elephants first. If we do that, what we have will be good enough for the number of tourists we have.

  7. Wally you forgot to add this:

    Also the Town should start banning all these political signs during election time. They are plastered over the town and especially Route 20 worse than billboards in the city. Then the Town Officials complain about neon signs & windows signs, in comparison that look much better than these pieces of carboard. Look at the "Welcome to Sturbridge", and leaning next to it is a huge Scott Brown Sign. Is that a improvement to the town?

    Yet the officials give the businesses a hard time on signage and yet they let this happen. It makes our Town look cheap & tacky...

  8. The real elephant is going to be the cost of these improvements. I forgot where i saw a figure for burying the power lines, but it was an impressive number is size is your thing. Unfortunately, we are very heavily debt ridden right now. All of these things that were mentioned above are fantastic and i would love to see it but i will not support spending one dime of my money to pay for it and i know a lot of others in this town feel the same way.

  9. Isn't this OUR town ?Saturday, October 20, 2012

    We sure have overspent with the CPA funds and owe way too much money on what was borrowed on that.

    I, too, am upset with the Welcome to Sturbridge Scott Brown sign. We have gotten mail from the Scott Brown camp that isn't fit for the trash, yet there's this huge Welcome to Sturbridge Scott Brown sign at the beginning of 131 - and it's not only there on the weekends when our sign patrol guy is away.

  10. You want to talk signs how about Stop and Shop with their 13 signs they had up for 2 weeks...and all the gas stations with their neon signs and an Antique store with one too they are all over town.
    Get rid of them.

  11. What neon signs? Where? I'd like to see one.

  12. I am not going to name names but look at several non chain gas stations, an upstairs antique store, a chain hardware store just to mention a few.

  13. All over town???Monday, October 22, 2012

    Really? Several neon signs? Bothersome? Oh, my! Perhaps they will be able to distinguish themselves and be noticed.

    Do you ever do that? Wear something different, or do your hair (if you have any) differently and wonder if anyone notices?

    We need diversity, to make this place more warm and welcoming. I don't want to paint everything gray, tan or barn red and wear barn coats and hiking boots every day. How boring.

    If we did have a little more diversity around here, perhaps you would get used to it and not search out an upstairs antique store to complain about.

    Mind you now, I still am opposed to that huge "Welcome to Sturbridge Scott Brown" sign. (Of all the nerve!)

    Have you complained to anyone about that Scott Brown gateway sign? If you did, has it done any good? 'Doesn't look like it.

  14. I cant believe how much time is spent on talking about signs by people of this town.

  15. have not seen the Scott Brown sign where is it?

  16. Wait till all the neon signs just say FOR RENT
    How long did Ames sit empty?

  17. The Welcome to Sturbridge Scott Brown sign is at the end of 131, just before the Mobil Station on the left, as you head toward the lights, in the direction of OSV. I'm wondering if it is owned privately, but it is a huge Welcome to Sturbridge sign (sits down low), and leaning right on it is the huge Scottt Brown sign, so it says "Welcome to Sturbridge Scott Brown." We don't ALL endorse Scott Brown. Tacky, in-your-face, politics.

  18. What does an empty Ames have to do with any of this? Are you saying that we are or were just too ugly for consideration?

    You expect NEON for rent signs on empty businesses, in Sturbridge? Businesses thinking of coming into town are more turned-off by militant restrictions than by the thought that we may one day have too many signs.

    I've heard of the slippery slope theory, but your suggestion here is more like an open "shaft".

  19. Scott Brown was mentioned here. If he really believes that you can always tell if a person has a Native American grandparent, just by looking at that person, Scott Brown is hugely, shall we say, uninformed. If he is smart enough to know that you can't always tell, he did the public a terrible disservice when he claimed that you could tell "just by looking at her (Elizabeth Warren)" that she has no Native American blood. There are many natural blondes, born right here in Sturbridge who do have Native American blood. Some families having, been persecuted for their heritage, protected the younger generations by hiding records and "passing for white" as they married caucasians and bore their children.

    With computers came the key for many of us to trace our lines back, search out or ancestors, and discover who we really are.

    So, I ask you, is it better for the senator, in this day and age, to be this ignorant of his facts or for him to be a purposeful liar?

  20. This is not just Scott Brown as even Warren has a big one at the former Subway on Main Street. And on the Zip Trip Warren people were in the way of everyone holding these large signs every time a camera was coming close and in the crowds.

    But our local candidates do the same thing loading up the signs starting with Route 20 by American Motor Lodge and all over town. They were running without opposition and still putting up signs by the multiples. One put 3 signs then the other 6 signs and so on and so on. In one track of land we have dozens of signs and the same practice all over town. Notice they dont put one political sign at the Town Hall or Common..

  21. Yes, but none of them lean on the sign that now says, "Welcome to Sturbridge, Scott Brown," as though the whole town is rooting for him to win. We are not.

  22. Hello everyone,

    Although I do not generally subscribe to blogs, I have heard that my name frequently graces this page including this topic, and so felt compelled to weigh in.

    Thank you for the list of suggestions to improve the Main Street (Route 20) experience. This "lad" can assured you that most of these are included and under consideration as part of the Commercial Tourist District Improvement Plan.

    Others will again be discussed with the Planning Board and its sub-committee that will oversee development of the plan. There will be ample opportunity for public input and comment over the next year. After we have a concept plan on paper the Town Planner and I will actively seek out federal and state funding opportunities to upgrade this corridor.

    Next, with respect to the political signage discussion, I would offer that I have the current honor of serving as interim zoning enforcement officer (or, sign czar). While I do not relish this task, the current bylaw -- which is a zoning bylaw -- will be enforced as time allows in an equitable manner.

    But, at the same time, there is an ongoing effort to upgrade the sign bylaw. You may check the Town's Web site to follow public meetings of the Sign Bylaw Review Subcommittee established by the Planning Board. It is important to participate in the process if you have an interest in this topic.

    As for the political signs,.. I have had the pleasure of speaking now to one "Brown" supporter and one "Warren" supporter concerning the location of their signs. But, please be reminded that political speech is a protected First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution. To the extent possible, I request all political signage to adhere to the "spirit and intent" of the sign bylaw.

    Perhaps Hurricane Sandy will provide some winds of change and take care of the political landscape whether on the left or right side of the road ... or aisle.

    Lastly, I encourage anyone with questions about Town operations to email me at for a direct, accurate response.

    Best regards,
    Shaun Suhoski
    Sturbridge Town Administrator

  23. Thank you for weighing in , Shaun. Your input is not only needed, but essential. Your feedback is very important to the ideas, and comments, offered here, otherwise it is like shouting into the wind; a lot of wasted energy. Thank you, again, and don't be a stranger.

  24. Bicycle lanes should be painted on the shoulders of Route 20!! The shoulders are now wide enough for the bike lanes to be painted between New Boston and further down. I will not speculate how they might help business, tourism, or locals in our town - but look at other analogous communities who have done the same and they can tell you that making your community more bike friendly is a great way to introduce a differnt type of traffic, convenience, and activity in a positive manner. Right now when I ride my bike down route 20 is causes me to spend more time browsing the shops and local businesses in a relaxed fashion (and the length of the route 20 never bothers me when I am on a bike!).

  25. There are many places along the way where those so called bicycle lanes disappear. Totally unsafe. Route 20 during rush hours is bad enough as it is now, and dark hours will start earlier in the coming week. Go ahead drive down Route 20 westbound from New Boston Road, and then drive back eastbound, and find where those "bicycle lanes" just disappear. A couple weeks ago I watched a young mother with a baby stroller in one of those disappearing "bike lanes." She ran out of "bike lane" right in the middle of her journey. These markings are not bicycle lanes! I wouldn't want to see a child of mine riding a bike there!!

  26. Route 20 is a major interstate route, not a little lane in a beach front community. Please, those of you who have suggested this before, don't try to tell me again that bike lanes on Route 20 will make it Route 20 safer.

  27. If the community wants to make "improvements" it needs to be be open minded. If the community cannot afford positive improvements then a collaboration with the business/property owners on Route 20 to create a BID might help. There are solutions - you just have to want to find them. There are quite a few beautiful communities that started with "we cant do this", or "that's impossible". Bikers (BTW are allowed to travel freely on the road), runners, walker's, and the so called "tourists" already walk, run, and ride on route 20. The demand is present. Instead of focusing on face lift items such as bricks - do something to actually "improve". There are alot of residents that would support bike lanes. And "Route 20 Rush hour"? Come on you mean the single lane of traffic that walls up for about 30 min where vehicles go about 15-20 mph? I am not sure that classifies as a reason to not have bike lanes. If that were the case then it follow that any road with traffic should not have bike lanes.

  28. Yes. Rush hour traffic. Go down to Arnold Road or the Whistling Swan and watch the afternoon-early evening traffic. Better yet, pull out into the traffic in both directions from the various residences and businesses in that area. Do the same during the flea markets three times a year, and during foliage season. Watch the cars drive into what you would call "bike lanes" as they maneuver. Try to see clearly with the sun in your eyes down there, and try to decipher human images in the roadway at dusk down there. Watch where the cars go when the police, fire and ambulances rush through many times every day and night of the year. This is a major traffic route, not a bicycle trail.

  29. Since it is such a high traffic hazardous area I guess we should eliminate all forms of usage other than motor vehicle usage. I think you described just about every road in every community where it is worthwhile to have bike lanes in the first place. It is usually a high traffic area that poeple seek out its usage due to the "vibrancy" of the environment. I agree with the previous poster and I think naysayers should go look at other communities that have bike lanes - they are very similiar if not more traveled than the short stretch of route 20 that I presume is being referenced. It is not a "trail" it is a "lane" created for bicylces who already have the right to use the roadway for which motor vehicles must share. The lane is tantamount to other safety improvements already referenced (such as installation of traffic lights). As stated bikes will continue to us the roadway without bike lanes and I see many on the weekends - the lane paint merely makes drivers of vehicles more aware that bike travel on that stretch of the road does occur and that they should be vigilant. It is a safety measure whether you want to buy it or not.

  30. Route 20 and bicyclesSaturday, November 03, 2012

    I repeat, those "bike lanes" disappear in some places. Gone. No space. Roadway within inches of sidewalks. "Bike lane" gone. Where is your "bike lane" down in the area of divided highway on Route 20 by the entrance area for OSV? There is none. Why do you suppose that folks around here wanted an alternate to Route 20 years ago and many still speak of it? Traffic. We don't need to encourage recreational biking on our interstate highway.This would certainly not be an improvement. Have you had a friend (youngster) killed while "safely" bicycling on Route 20, in plain view of all the traffic, in this town? I have.

  31. I have heard the term bedroom community throw around quite a few times when it comes to Sturbridge, i agree that we are. Are bike lanes a good way to spend out tax dollars? i personally do not think they are. I am all about the tax dollars being spent on things that the majority of the town will utilize. I do not think bike lanes will be used by more than 3% of the community. Therefore, i would not support the bike lanes at this time. Just one mans opinion...

  32. It appears that wish #3 is about to be fulfilled. In early January (2013), I observed trucks on either side of Route 20 near the corner of New Boston Road. After two weeks they left leaving a section of conduit sticking out of ground on either side of the highway. I speculate this is will accomodate electrical connections for a new traffic light at that location.

  33. Traffic lights at the intersection of New Boston Road, and Route 20 are long over due. If those stubs of conduit are the beginnings of traffic lights our roads would become so much safer. I hope it's true.


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