Friday, April 9, 2010

Essex Heritage Strategic Plan Approved, Community Budget Planning, Salem Five Annual Meeting, Rail Trail News


Essex Heritage Board of Trustees Adopt Strategic Plan

On April 6, 2010 the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees was presented with an updated version of the Essex Heritage strategic plan and the plan was adopted as presented. The work on the plan has been ongoing for the past half year and this is the first comprehensive planning effort undertaken by Essex Heritage since an original management plan was created at the time Essex Heritage was first authorized by the Congress over a decade ago. In those interviewing years, many external factors have changed including how Essex Heritage has received funding. Over time the Commission has adjusted to lower levels of public funding, and has made the required adjustments to seek more diverse funding from numerous generous and committed private funding sources. Under the new planning document approved this week, that trend will likely be accelerated. The plan approved by the board is based on a real need for Essex Heritage to address the way it serves the region in new ways as conditions in the region continue to change. The leadership of Essex Heritage continues to be confidant that the new vision and strategies that were adopted earlier this week will serve the region well in the future.

The adopted plan presents a vision and five general statements of purpose for Essex Heritage that will direct their activities over the foreseeable future. That vision and the general plan of action are as follows:

The Vision……..Essex Heritage is uniquely positioned to work across local and regional boundaries and advocate for matters that improve the “quality of life” in Essex County. From this strategic vantage point, ENHC creates tangible and intangible assets that benefit the people of Essex County. Through partnerships and leverage, ENHC is adept at preserving, educating, enhancing, and sustaining the heritage assets and organizations of Essex County, building a place that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a catalyst for positive change, ENHC is committed to the following general tenants of operation:

Statement 1: Be a regional voice for the “Quality of Life” in Essex County

Statement 2: Improve the visibility and leverage the benefits of the presence of the National Park Service in the Area.

Statement 3: Educate and increase awareness of the Area’s historic, cultural and natural resources.

Statement 4: Preserve, enhance and sustain the Area’s tangible (physical) heritage assets and associated organizations.

Statement 5: Diversify core funding sources to achieve long tern sustainability.

Certainly there will be much more specific planning required by Essex Heritage to complete a set of strategies and tactics that must be created to assist the leadership of Essex Heritage as they move this plan into the implementation stage, but with the help of our many friends and partners we are confidant that the work can be accomplished. This will allow Essex Heritage to continue to be an important resource and partner to many in this region in the thirty four communities it serves and for the three quarters of a million residents of the area and the hundreds of thousands people who come to this region annually to work or to visit

Municipal Budget Planning Season

Over the next several weeks, municipalities around the region will all be looking at their financial budgets for the next fiscal year. This year’s task will be difficult in many communities as revenues continue to remain at best constant or even in some cases reduced slightly in today’s environment. In 2010, balancing the local municipal budgets without making serious expenses cuts will be hard to accomplish.

The Town of Danvers budget setting process like others in the region continues this week with a first Finance Committee meeting scheduled for this Thursday evening followed by seven additional meetings scheduled before the Town meeting on May 17, 2010. I have been involved in this process on the Danvers Finance Committee for a number of years, and each year the process get more and more difficult to complete without a reduction in services that usually includes job cuts.

It is interesting to note that in a recent newsletter from the Mayor of Salem, Mayor Kim Driscoll make a passionate case for the need to provide local Mayors and Town Managers with the ability to make changes to the health insurance plans that they offer to municipal employees without first receiving the approval of a majority of their employee unions. The process is called heath insurance design control and that capability for municipal leadership would go a long way towards bringing some of the local municipal health costs more in line with what is found now in private business. Just being able to make changes in co-pay levels for example could bring about substantial savings in total premiums for both the communities and the employees who serve this region. In addition to bringing the costs more in line, it might allow the local communities to enact approved budgets for this new year that protected municipal jobs that today are critical to the general economy as conditions across this State continues to show some small signs of improvement.

Salem Five Annual Meeting

Earlier this week, I attended the annual business meeting of the Salem Five Bank. I continue to serve this 155 year old, Mutual Savings Bank as a corporator after a nearly four decade career at the bank as an employee that ended eleven years ago. Salem Five that has long been committed to serving this region had a very positive, ”bounce back” year after a previous year that was negatively impacted by the world, national, state and local economic conditions. Earnings returned to more normal levels and the bank continued to be a strong community resource as a regional lender, and exceeded their lending goals in most categories, particularly in home mortgage lending where they wrote over 5000 new mortgage loans in the reporting period. The bank also reported that in the last year due in part to a connection with Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox that they had opened over 1000 new youth accounts, and received an award for the educational efforts connected with that program, Salem Five has always been a most committed supporter of the mission of Essex Heritage, has a representative serving on the Commission’s Board of Trustees and in their current status as the third largest bank in the Commonwealth seems well positioned to continue to provide support to the region and the residents, businesses and non-profit community organizations in this area,

Rail Trail News

Danvers Rail Trail….As noted recently in a recent posting, work on the Danvers Rail Trail seems to be gaining momentum each day. Essex Heritage is justifiably proud of the role that it has played in the development of a Rail Trail strategy in Danvers and in this region that includes the other communities participating in the Border to Boston initiative. We continue to be willing to offer our continuing support to the Town of Danvers and its Rail Trail Advisory Committee and others in this area as this exciting new regional recreational asset is developed. The work that has been accomplished in Danvers over the last several weeks is most encouraging and Essex Heritage looks forward to even more progress in the weeks and months ahead.

I recently received information from one of the participants in the planning process in Danvers and the Danvers Bi-Peds group has announced that their next meeting will be held in the Carriage House at Endicott Park on April 12th at 7:00 pm and that the next meeting of the town sponsored Rail Trail Advisory group will be meeting in Danvers Town Hall on 4/22 at 6:00 PM. Both of those meetings are open to the public and attendance and participation is welcome if you have an interest in the Rail Trail process in Danvers. Danvers group Visit to Peabody Trail….If local bicyclists want to experience what a finished trail can provide, the Danvers group is organizing a ride along the recently completed Peabody Trail on April 24, 2010. For more information on that event contact the Danvers Bi-Peds at

Coastal Trails Coalition…This effort that is substantially more advanced than the group in Danvers is planning a major event on May 23, 2010 to celebrate the official; opening of trails in Newburyport and Salisbury. There will be a series of events that day, to celebrate the trail openings and as the event gets closer we will provide much more detail, but for now we wanted to be certain that you had the date on your calendar

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts or any questions you may have at We are always striving to make Essex Heritage work as effectively as possible and your input and suggestions are always welcome. We can always provide more information and better communication, and one of the goals of these postings on Essex happenings is to provide that opportunity. Thanks You. Tom Leonard

1 comment:

  1. Hello Tom -

    Google’s Blog Search sent me to your blog because of the keywords "regional community."
    The work of the Essex Heritage Area will be an inspiration to others, and therefore I will put a link to this post for subscribers of Regional
    Community Development News. The newsletter will be found at Please visit, check the tools and consider a link.

    As a regional planner I worked on the planning for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields in Virginia in the 1990's. It became a Heritage Area and that work contributed to my notion of the emergence of regional communities of communities.

    It did take me some time to figure out that your "Essex" is a County Massachusetts near Boston. I went to, but there was no regional location map. I saw an ad for North of Boston, which gave a hint - and the Salem, MA address. Returning to your site I found the county reference in the green heading for your blog. All of the clues were small font. Why would "Essex" be geographically confusing? First, there are five Essex Counties in the U.S., one in Virginia. There are 16 U.S. cities named Essex. My aunts and uncles lived in Essex, MD. There are the UK and Canadian localities as well. A Google search: Results 1 - 10 of about 48,500,000 for Essex. (0.37 seconds).

    My suggestion is that in Essex Heritage Area materials, online and in print, a regional location map/regional context info be included. This is a common problem for localities/areas. Local common names work - everyone knows. This is true for The County, The Bay, The Valley, The River. From the outside in - these local terms mean nothing. I've been to thousands of websites in the years of doing my newsletter. It is often hard to find out where a newspaper is published, so I can get the correct geographical context for regions/regional communities.

    I'll be in Boston July 8 -9 for the panel I organized for the World Future Society - "The Future is Regional."