Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Essex Happenings, Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Essex Heritage Event Planning

Late last week, the staff at Essex Heritage gathered to begin the process of looking at the 2011 calendar for the Commission. As time has gone on, this initiative has become an even more important player in the life of this region and with so many programs in place, it seemed appropriate to stop and take a minute and look ahead to 2011. Next year, Essex Heritage will be offering its tenth anniversary edition of Trails and Sails and on this anniversary year we want the event to be a special one for both Essex heritage and all its partners. The planning effort for that event is starting to take shape. We have decided to move our spring 2011 public meeting up a bit next year to April, and as part of that gathering we will also use the time to unveil plans and the administrative structure of the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway permanent organization.

May 2011 will bring us to the fourth edition of our Heritage Hero presentation and as noted in a recent posting that planning for that event is already underway. We expect that our activities with our senior partner the National Park Service will expand as it has done every year since our inception, and the Friendship Sails program will once again be a large part of that effort during the summer. Late in the summer our first travel program with Collette Vacations to the western national parks will occur, and preliminary plans for more excursions are already under discussion. The fall will of course focus on Trails and Sails, but In October the Annual Meeting is scheduled and in 2011 the term of office of our most effective and energetic current President, Kevin Tierney of Saugus Bank will finish, and a new volunteer administrative team will be named. I am certain that this just scratches the surface of the activities of the Essex heritage Commission, and I will continue to provide all of you with ongoing updates in all through the year in this presentation.

Joint Historical Society Meeting

Bill Power of the Peabody Historical Society should be applauded for an initiative that he organized late last week to bring a number of southern Essex County Historical Societies together for an exploratory meeting. Bill is former member of the Board of Trustees of Essex Heritage and still serves that group on its Trustee Emeritus Board. Bill invited representatives of Historical Societies in Danvers, Lynnfield, Lynn, Middleton, and Topsfield to join a representative group from Peabody to at the very least explore possibilities of seeking collaborative solutions.

I attended the meeting as a member of the Board of the Danvers Historical Society, but also wore my Essex Heritage hat at the meeting. Bill was very complimentary of what Essex Heritage has accomplished in the region when looking at the “big picture of needs across the entire region”, but focused the meeting held in the Smith Barn on the property of the Peabody Historical Society on addressing more specific local needs. Issues like curatorial services, awareness of what one another was promoting and when, facility management, dealing with the Commonwealth, shared marketing efforts and the filling of required government paperwork were all explored. The meeting included a tour of the facilities in the hands of the Peabody group and a most generous lunch was provided.

It was generally agreed that there was some benefits to forming a “loose” group that might meet once each quarter at different Historical Society locations to review opportunities and to gain some insight into what is available in the region and to share ideas. At the very least “best practices” could be outlined to learn if what worked for one organization might work for others. Most of the organizations presently manage uniquely different historic resources that are offered for rent most particularly for weddings. It was thought that if a potential renter that is most definitely interested in historic locations, that if a particular site would not work then steering them to another location that fits the historic bill within the group would be a worthwhile effort. The meeting ended with an agreement to begin to try to link websites of the six participating organizations and to agree to hold ongoing quarterly meetings to explore other options. In general the meeting seemed most positive, and I indicated that Essex Heritage would both monitor the process and be open to playing a collaborative role if needed as the process proceeds.

Danvers Rail Trail Update

Last Saturday was a wonderful fall day with temperatures above what we usually see a week or so before Thanksgiving. The weather this month up until that day had been cool and wet and the warm temperatures and sunny skies on Saturday brought a large group of Danvers residents out to participate in a walk sponsored by the Danvers Bi-Peds along the developing Rail Trail. I am not sure exactly how many people participated, but there was a large crowd, as there were two groups that walked the partially finished Danvers Rail Trail. One group headed north and my wife and I headed south with a big group towards Peabody. The group that headed south with us included Danvers Selectmen, Dan Bennett and Bill Clarke who both participated in the walk. The walk we completed took us across several local Danvers street intersections along the route to Peabody, and clearly the safety of future participants at those crossings will have to be addressed and they will be before traffic becomes heavy on the Trail. In fact, last year our organization, Essex Heritage provided a Partnership Grant to the Town of Danvers to begin to address these matters and plans are already underway to address this issue. The surface of the Rail Trail will need more work than exists today and those improvements will be completed although the timetable for that work is a little unclear. All of the rails have been removed along the trail and most of the ties are either removed or are bundled for future removal. The surface of the trail is rough in places and the plans to complete some grading and to provide some more permanent surface will be essential. At the present time there are many loose impediments along the way including large rocks, some underbrush, branches and uneven surfaces. So if you choose to venture out onto the Rail Trail to test it before winter sets in, be careful, as the footing in places is still a little difficult.

Our walk heading south out of the downtown Danvers Hobart Street parking lot took us about two and one half miles each way and brought us to the area in Peabody just behind the Brooksby Village retirement complex in that city. It appears that some work on the north-south portion of the Peabody trail that was just announced is underway. That city has a very active trail that heads east and west through the Leather City from the North Shore Shopping Center up into West Peabody, and when an ultimate link up is completed between the two communities residents of the region will certainly be the beneficiaries. During our walk we crossed the old Railroad Bridge that crosses Route 114 just east of Garden Street in Danvers, and the condition of that bridge is in wonderful shape and will certainly support riders and walkers. It is clear to all of us who participated in this walk that the trail when completed will be a wonderful asset to the Town of Danvers.

I certainly am aware of the financial conditions that exist in local communities today, and the many projects that need attention in Danvers, but this is a project that needs to move up the priority list in Town. The Town Planning Department, the Town Manager and his appointed Rail Trail Advisory Committee and organizations like the Bi-Peds are all doing wonderful work to keep the trail in focus and we urge their continuing support for this important project. The advantages too many of all ages in the Town will certainly be evident when the Trail is complete, as maybe we can get a few more vehicles off the streets, and the benefits to many from a physical fitness standpoint are evident.

Our day on the Trail was made complete when my wife’s name was randomly drawn as the winner of a participation prize. She was the recipient of a gift certificate generously provided by McKinnon’s Market in Danvers. For those of you who might want to receive a first hand update on the Rail Trail, a public meeting will be held this Thursday evening at the Town’s Senior Center on Stone Street. At 6:00 pm that evening a regular meeting of the Rail Trail Advisory Committee will be held followed by an update at 7:00 pm on the work being done on the Trail.

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 www.essexheritage.org. 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. You can also contact me directly if you wish information on the August 2011 Travel opportunity to the Northern National Parks. I am signed up for the trip, and I hope that you will consider joining me on that trip. Thank You. Tom Leonard

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