Friday, February 26, 2010

Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the Continuing Improvements to theQuality of Life in Essex County


This posting represents the 100th posting offered since Essex Happenings was created

Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge

From time to time during our stay at Treasure Island Florida, we have the occasion to travel south over a truly spectacular bridge that spans Tampa Bay. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge named for the former Governor and US Senator from Florida, is a cable-stayed bridge that was built over a five-year span from 1982 to 1987. The current bridge replaced a smaller span that was run into by a tanker in an accident on May 9, 1980. The current bridge is a marvelous engineering achievement that covers a distance of 5.5 mile in length and towers over the bay at 193 feet above the water level. The bridge carries four lanes of traffic and 20,000 vehicles use the bridge on a daily basis to travel between Pinellas and Manatee Counties. The bridge on occasion has to be closed due to dense fog or extremely high winds.

The previous bridge was a much smaller span that only carried two lanes of traffic and as mentioned was destroyed in an accident in May of 1980. That day in a violent thunderstorm a tanker leaving the Port of Tampa ran into the bridge and as a result 1000 feet of the bridge collapsed into the bay taking six automobiles and a Greyhound Bus with the wrecked portion of the bridge into the waters of the bay. The construction of the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge began immediately and five years and $245 million later the new span was opened. The remaining sections of the old bridge were then converted into fishing piers that are still most active today and are almost always busy with recreational fishermen whenever we cross over the bridge. It is interesting to note that the bridge that was destroyed in the boating accident was built in 1955 and replaced a ferry that previously took passengers between the two counties. One sad note connected to the bridge is that since it’s opening in 1987 there have been 140 reported suicide attempts as jumpers leaped from the bridge. Miraculously 10 of those attempted suicides were unsuccessful. It is a wonderful experience to cross the bridge and to enjoy the view from the top of the span, and one can see why the Travel Channel has identified the bridge in the top three bridges in this country.

Quality of Life Issues an Important Reason Why Essex County is so livable

Last month I saw an announcement of another major medical improvement to the region where we all live and work. The news focused on the decision that Boston Children’s Hospital had decided to dramatically expand its presence in Essex County. For the last decade that hospital has maintained a small 6000 sq ft facility in the Leahy Hospital complex at the North Shore Shopping Center, but now they are planning to remodel an old building into a new 60,000 sq ft office in Centennial Park in Peabody. This new facility only adds to the incredible array of medical facilities that are located within the borders of Essex County. In just the last couple of years, North Shore Medical Center in conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital has built a fantastic new medical facility on Endicott Street in Danvers, and Northeast Health Systems has added a wonderful medical building on the site of the old Danvers State Hospital. Now we learn that North Shore Medical Center is about to announce the completion of a major new state of the art intensive care unit on the Salem campus. When we consider all of the other improvements and office expansions that the three major hospitals have made all over the area, it is clear that this region is one of the finest locations in the state for health care services. We are also most fortunate to have wonderful family hospitals with Addison Gilbert in Gloucester and Anna Jacques in Newburyport, plus the Lynn facilities managed by North Shore Medical. It is clear that his region has become a Mecca for medical facilities second to none possibly in all of New England. The medical technology that we have at our disposal in the region is only the tip of the iceberg as Boston with all of its medical assets only minutes away in an emergency.

Our medical assets are truly superb but when we couple them with the educational institutions serving our region like Salem State College, Endicott College, Merrimack College and Marian Court College, North Shore Community College, and Northern Essex Community College, we truly have a wonderful array of colleges These institutions provide opportunities for the next generation and with the economy as it is today, there are many adults and seniors who are taking advantage of what the educational institutions in the region have to offer. We can also add the new North Shore Vocational Technical School, that received such great regional support to the mix and construction will begin on that facility in the very near term. This will allow even more students in the region the opportunity to receive specialized training at that new facility.

Add in the wide range of historic properties, community Historical Societies, world class museums like the Peabody-Essex Museum and the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, the Cape Anne Museum in Gloucester and the Wenham Museum and a wide range of theatre and arts opportunities like the North Shore Theater and the Salem Theatre Company plus the State Park land and other valuable protected open space, then one can quickly see why this region is such a desirable place to live or work. We are also most fortunate to have two units of the National Park Service in our region, and the programs and the educational opportunities available at the Salem Maritime Historic Site and the Saugus Iron Works Historical Site are clearly the “frosting on the cake” for Essex County.

During the 2010 spring semester, Salem State College and its Center for Economic Development and Sustainability will be undertaking a survey on behalf of several organizations in the region including Essex Heritage that will attempt to quantify just how important all of these world class assets are to the employers and residents of the region. The study will also attempt to put an economic value to the region on these assets as well. We are most appreciative of the commitment of Salem State President, Dr Patricia Maguire Messervey and Dr Lori Krebs for their commitment to this survey. Watch for that survey in the near future, and we encourage you to participate if you are provided that opportunity. Your input will be important to us at Essex Heritage and all of the other participants in this survey as we all continue to refine strategies to make certain that we continue to provide world-class opportunities to all the businesses and residents of the region that make up the Essex National Heritage Area.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Florida State Parks,National Trust for Historic Preservation, Salem Theatre Company, Town of Hamilton, Endicott College and Danvers Planetarium

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 from Florida

Florida State Parks Alive and Well

Over several recent posts to this BLOG we have reported on the financial woes that have beset some State Parks in both Massachusetts and other states. We are all very aware of cuts that have been made in Massachusetts to the park budgets with reductions across the board. We have also reported recently on major cuts in Pennsylvania that have been thought by many to have one of the finest State Park programs in the country. There have also been severe cuts made in other states, like California and other western states. I am not sure of the financial conditions of the State parks here in Florida, but one sensational park that is located about 5 miles from where we reside in the winter stay we enjoy certainly seems to be thriving.

De Soto State Park located in St. Petersburg is the largest State Park in Pinellas County. The park is a 1,136-acre preserve that contains seven miles of some of the most pristine beach I have ever seen. The North Beach was named in 2009 for the second year in a row, as America’s best beach. In addition to the beaches at the park there are wonderfully diverse amenities to please nearly any visitor, and in 2009 the park had 2.7 million visitors including my wife and I. The park is made of five interconnected islands and wonderful examples of Florida growth is preserved for present visitor and future generations as well. If the beach were not enough of a draw, there is a civil war fort on the site that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fort is a great place to explore, and generally there are hundreds of families looking over the battlements. There is a superb boat launching facility and a fishing pier, nature trails and a 6.8 mile paved bike trail that is always very busy.

The parkland was purchased from the federal government in 1938 and was opened as a State Park in perpetuity in 1962. Over the many years that we have visited this area we have always made it a point to make several visits each year to this site, and in the past, we have viewed several civil war encampments complete with mock battles. The weather so far this year has been a little too cool so far for the beach, but we have been to the park once already for a long walk, and certainty before we return to Essex County in late March, I am certain we will make a couple of additional trips to sample this wonderful resource.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

I regularly receive the newsletter from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the recent edition contained information on two interesting issues. The newsletter provided information on a movement being mounted to spearhead a hearing by the Congress to take the first steps to establish a US Civil Rights Heritage Trail. This would be just a first step by the Congress, appropriately mounted during Black History Month to establish and preserve for future generations several important sites to highlight the history of civil rights activities in this country. This certainly seems like an appropriate course of action for the Congress.

The second item in this month’s newsletter would allow visitors to the web site of the preservation organization to view one dozen Distinctive Destinations in this country and vote for their favorite place. There are three sites from New England in the dozen identified sites. The three New England sites include Rockland, Maine, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Simsbury, Ct. You can visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation web site at and cast your vote. I cast a vote for Rockland Maine when I was on the site.

Salem Theatre Company Opens in New Location

The Salem Theatre Company has a new home in downtown Salem at 90 Lafayette Street. This is a wonderful addition to the arts scene in Essex County. The new theatre offers 60 seats, and over the next three weekends the theatre company will offer several presentations to help dedicate the site. Reservations are encouraged, but tickets if available can be purchased at the door on the night of the performances. The new facility is a wonderful addition to the Salem downtown, and adds another nighttime activity for the fast growing group of residents that now populate the downtown area. To get more information on the theatre and the schedule of presentation visit

Town of Hamilton Town Administrator Decides Not to Apply for New Position

Essex Heritage has learned that Ms Candace Wheeler who has served for many years as the Town Administrator for the Town of Hamilton has decided not to apply for the new position that the Town will offer as Town Manager. Ms Wheeler has always been a good friend to Essex Heritage and has served the Town of Hamilton in a most exemplary manner and her long service and history of the Town will be missed. The Town has been well served by Ms Wheeler, and we wish her well in whatever course she now chooses to pursue.

Endicott College to add Wind Power Component to Campus

It is most positive to learn that Endicott College is considering the construction of a windmill on the Beverly Farms campus. The new tower that will support the windmill will be erected at the rear of the campus in a wooded area. And in the future the new turbine is anticipated to provide 30% of the electric power needs for the college campus. I expect that in the future we will see even more programs like this one to help modify escalating costs, and the same time protecting the environment. Any time we see a program like this one being put in place it is a most positive sign for the region.

Danvers School System Planetarium

The Danvers school system has recently learned that the planetarium that has been part of the High School for many years will need to be torn down to make way for the construction of the new High School. People connected with the Planetarium have indicated that they would like very much to see that facility survive in another location. The physical needs to handle the equipment in the planetarium requires about 1200 sq ft of space with twenty-foot ceilings. That will be a task to find such a space at a reasonable price, but if anyone out there who has a lead on such a space please contact the Danvers School Department.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Friday, February 19, 2010

Florida Rail Trail, CPA Funding in Peabody,NSMT to Re-Open, Lawrence Heritage Park Program, and Eseex Heritage Photo Contest


Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

In this part of Florida one of the most visible recreational assets is clearly the converted abandoned rail trail called the Pinellas Trail. The Fred Marquis Trail was named for a county official who worked diligently to make the Trail a reality in Pinellas County. 90,000 residents of this area use this wonderful recreational asset every month that stretches 34 miles from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs for both recreation and in many cases as a way to travel to work each day. The Trail that originally opened in 1990 is very visible as overpasses cross some of the busiest intersections in the area to carry users safely across the busy roads. There are even long stretches of the trail that cross some of the bays that are so prominent in the region.

The uses are varied as bikers, walkers, joggers and skaters use the trail and the linear park that has been created has preserved green space for the future. Along the way there are several stops where the users can stop and enjoy the water and other sights. A non-profit group than encompasses the entire area has been formed and they regularly raise funding for continuing efforts to enhance the trail, and benches, water and other amenities have been added. The final configuration of the trail is expected to be 47 miles in length and sections of the Trail are still in the planning stage or under construction. This trail mirrors what Essex Heritage is trying to accomplish with its leadership position on the Border to Boston trail that will run from Salisbury to Danvers. We certainly expect that the trail will certainly not end at Danvers, and trails south of that terminus have been built in Peabody and Salem and in the future hopefully connections to those trails can be made.

CPA Funding works again in Peabody

In Essex County, the community that has used the Community Preservation Act to the fullest is the City of Peabody. Mayor Michael Bonfanti and his Preservation Committee Chairman, former Essex Heritage Trustee, Bill Powers have shown how these funds can be used most effectively by a local community. The City has preserved open space, created parks, built recreational trails built community museums and preserved open space with the funds they have received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Just recently the City is once again planning to use these funds to preserve land in the City that was in peril due to a potential development. The Mayor and his Preservation Committee has asked the city council for funds to acquire a four-acre site off Lynnfield Street in that community that could be developed into house lots if not preserved. The particular site in question is a former farm, and by preserving this site from development, the city is hoping to set up the land if acquired for community gardens to help preserve the fast disappearing farming heritage of that community, and also to open the land for other passive recreational uses. The Statewide Preservation Action organization that focuses on the Community Preservation funding is moving legislation forward in the Massachusetts legislature that would make adoption of the Community Preservation Act even more advantageous to a local community. At the present time about one half of the communities in this region have adopted the legislation, and if any community was interested in more information they can contact the Community Preservation Coalition at They will be happy to provide information on the progress of the current legislation and how a community can participate in this program.

Good News for the Theatre Lovers in the Region

It certainly appears that the old North shore Music Theatre on Dunham Road in Beverly will be active again sometime this summer. The new ownership that also owns other theatres in New England has completed the sale of the 28 acres site from Citizens Bank. The new owner Bill Haney has indicated that he wants to bring the Christmas Carol back to Beverly this December, and he obviously has other plans for the theatre this summer. My office has pointed out to me that a new web site has profiled Mr. Haney and other arts experiences in this region take a look as for more information on the arts in this region.

Lawrence Heritage State Park Program

One of our most active partners at the Lawrence Heritage State Park will be offering a most informative program that will be open to the public on Saturday February 27, 2010. The event called a (Un) Civil Action in Lawrence will be outlined by local historians Robert Forrant and Jim Beauchesne at the Heritage State Park site from 1 until 4 pm. An overview of the famous Bread and Roses strike of 1912 will be presented and then a segment of the documentary “John Brown’s Holy War” will be shown. Admission to the presentation is free but reservations for the presentation must be made. Refreshments will be served at the event. To make a reservation to assure your participation, call 413 588 1606.

Essex Heritage Photo Contest information for 2010 on the Web Site

I know that it was not long ago that entries were judged in the 2009 Essex Heritage Photo contest, but the 2010 information on how to participate this year are now on the Essex Heritage web site. Check out for complete information on how to enter your photographs in 2010 for the recognition that we provide the winners. Find out the categories that will be eligible and start snapping photos all over this wonderful region now. It is never too early to begin to chronicle what you view around this region on film. There will be several categories that photos can be entered and prizes and regional exposure for the entrants for the best entries will be provided

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Local Florida Visit, Partnership Grant Deadline, Medical Seminar, Bruce Whear Joins Essex Heritage Board, and Danvers Town hall Re-Opens


Visit to Tarpon Springs

One day at the end of last week on a cool and windy day here in Florida we took a trip to an interesting town north of where we stay during this winter vacation. The trip was a pleasant drive up the coast through Clearwater and Dunedin into the community of Tarpon Springs. The community that we visited has had a wonderful history since the late 1800’s when the seaside town became a playground for many wealthy northerners. At that time the region was known as a health center and a destination for winter vacations, due in part to waters that were thought to have healing powers. Many wonderful home remain in Tarpon Springs from that period and those homes and a wonderful assortment of shops make up a historic District has many homes that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Tarpon Springs is best known as the “sponge capital of the world”, and sponge diving exhibitions and deep sea fishing trips and other boating excursions are available. For several blocks along a busy waterfront that looks like it has been transplanted from the Greek Islands, sponge boats and the strings of “harvested” sponges combine with Greek bakeries and restaurants to make the town a quaint and quirky place to spent a couple of pleasant hours. We certainly enjoyed our visit to this waterfront community and would recommend Tarpon Springs as a destination for others.

Partnership Grant Deadline on the Last day of this Month

My office has reminded me that while we have received some applications for the recently restored Essex Heritage Partnership Grant program, there are certainly more to follow. I want to take this time to point out that Essex heritage will be providing ten, $2,500.00 grants to help complete projects that help advance our mission. The final cutoff date for submissions for the Grant Program is February 28, 2010, and the applications must be submitted ON-LINE at Don’t get left out if you have a project that will qualify. More information on the criteria connected with the Grant process can also be found on the web site. Bill Steelman from our office has put together a wonderful team of experts who will be reviewing the applications, and they will be meeting in late March to review the applications. From that process a series of grants will be selected and later in Spring 2010 the award winners will be announced.

North Shore Medical Center Seminar

The evening before we left for Florida, we attended a seminar offered by the North Shore Medical Center at the Seaport Hotel in Salem. The program was offered by the hospital and its radiology department and was focused on a lay mans explanation of he many kinds of services offered by that department at the hospital. The program covered virtually every kind of scan that one might have during a lifetime. A history of how the X ray process was discovered and how that technology helped foster all of the other types of scans offered in today’s hospital. The presentations were accompanied by some marvelous descriptions complete with some very clear visuals that helped clear up any misconceptions about this technology. MRI, CT Scans, Ultrasounds and PET Scans were all explained and the program was certainly most informative. The hospital presented this lecture as part of a regular series that they provide to keep the people of this region up to date on all of the available advancing technology. The hospitality of the Salem Seaport Hotel was also most pleasant that evening.

Welcome to Bruce Whear

At the most recent Essex Heritage board meeting the Trustees elected Bruce Whear of Swampscott and Salem to a term on the Board. Essex Heritage is happy to welcome Bruce to the Board, and we know that he will be a wonderful addition. Bruce is the President and CEO of Wire For Hire in Salem, and as an electrical contractor will bring a connection to Essex Heritage from the many talented trades people who serve this region so well. I am truly sorry that I could not attend the meeting to personally welcome Bruce to the Board, but it will be a pleasure to work with him in the future to advance our mission in this region. I have had the good fortune to work with Bruce in the past at the Salem Rotary Club, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, and the North Shore Community College, and always found him to a dedicated worker for all of the causes he has undertake, I expect no less in his new role with Essex Heritage.

Danvers Town Hall Opens Today at 1:00 pm

Later today at 1:00 the newly rehabilitated Danvers Town Hall will be reopened for business. Over this past holiday weekend all of the Town staff that had moved to the Dunn Wing at the High School have moved back and are ready once again to serve the residents of Danvers. Over the better part of the last year substantial work has been done to both restore the Town Hall and to update the facility. The Town Hall is the oldest publicly owned building in the Town of Danvers and certainly has much historic value to the community. Several years ago, the Danvers Town meeting body made a major rehabilitation commitment and the work to rebuild the historic structure has been accomplished under budget and on time. The work was delayed just a bit due to a fire in the attic of Town Hall, but the fire was controlled by the prompt action of the Fire Department and after an insurance claim was adjudicated, the work continued. A couple of years ago, under the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program a grant was provided to the Town to help with this rehabilitation, and we are happy that Essex Heritage has played a role in his project.

Olympic Games

I have always enjoyed the Olympics and this year’s version is no different. It is particularly pleasing to see some local Essex County participation in these games. Congratulations to Meghan Duggan from Danvers who scored two goals in the USA hockey win over China. We wish her well as the games continue.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Friday, February 12, 2010

Background on Florida Location, City of Lawrence, Two Preservation Projects, and the Passing of an Associate


A Little Background on the Area of Florida where we reside

When we are in Florida for our winter visit we stay in a community called Treasure Island. The community is an independent municipality that is a part of St Pete Beach. Our location is in a condominium project called Lands End and it contains 175 units in several four-story buildings. The property is located at the end of a mile long dead end street that terminates at a canal that intersects with the Gulf of Mexico. It is a pleasant residential neighborhood, and it is really amazing to view the number of housing units along the way to our rental that are for sale, Several years ago, the neighborhood had experienced a renaissance as some smaller units were torn down to make room for larger units that were then constructed. The condition of the Florida real estate market is highlighted in the dozens of properties for sale along this one-mile stretch that fronts on the Gulf. In 2010 there are actually more units for sale than there was in 2009, and that time the inventory for sale was incredible. When one travels around this part of Florida it seems as if half the state is for sale. I suppose at some time in the future the inventory will catch up with demand but that does not seem to the case in 2010.

As I noted this area is primarily a residential neighborhood, but right at the head of the street where the street meets the main road into St Pete Beach is an outdoor bar and restaurant that certainly does an amazing amount of business when the weather is excellent. I mention the restaurant as with college break coming up in a week or so, the Town is considering changes to bring what on some days seems like chaos under control. They are speaking of a larger police presence, better control of the contents of coolers on the beach and general crowd control. It does seem strange that in light of making some conservative changes, that the community is considering changing the curfew for establishments that serve alcohol from 2:00 am to 3:00 am, to match the curfew time in nearby Tampa. The establishment can start serving alcohol at 7:00 am, so the hours of operation are most generous. The entire area thrives on tourism, and does whatever it can to encourage visitation.

The City of Lawrence and their Financial Stability

During my stay in Florida, I regularly read the on-line versions of the Boston Globe and the Salem News and do my very best to stay current on activities in the region. One of the more prominent stories in those papers this week was an update on the situation in Lawrence. It seems clear to me that the conditions that the Massachusetts Legislature are indicating that they will impose on the City in exchange for loans to help stabilize that community seem most reasonable. It seems to be a most reasonable solution to encourage the new Mayor to resign his seat in the State legislature and concentrate all of his efforts on putting the city of Lawrence back on a positive track. The state seems inclined to offer financial support along with some oversight of operations in the city in exchange for what appears to be most reasonable conditions. Lets hope that Mayor Lantigna will find a way to come to an agreement with the State and the citizens of Lawrence will have some most needed help in working through their current financial difficulties. There are thousands of residents of that community that will certainly suffer if the current conditions with an expected $25 million deficit is allowed to continue. The City of Lawrence is an important community in this region and the wellbeing of the many residents of that community is most important to the region.

Two Preservation Projects Scheduled in the Region

It was nice to see that two projects in the Essex region were announced this week. The Trustees of Reservations announced that they would be undertaking a major rehab of the Grand Allee at Castle Hill. The Grand Allee was designed originally by Arthur Shurcliff who was also responsible for the design of the esplanade along the Charles River in Boston. The Trustees announced that they were be removing nearly 100 trees on that wonderful plot of land that runs to the sea to restore the view for the Crane property to what it was when the property was first built. The trees will be replaced with smaller plantings that will be trimmed as hedges as they mature improving the view. That certainly will change the already spectacular views from the main house.

The other project of interest was the announcement that the Trustees of Goldthwaite Reservation in Marblehead wishes to restore the marsh at the Goldthwaite Reservation adjacent to Devereux Beach. Over the years much fresh water has invaded the marsh, and the plans will be restore that site as a salt-water marsh. The Trustees are anticipating some opposition to their planning, as the work to free culverts from weeds that are blocking the project might have to be treated with some spraying. The costs of this project will be borne, as the Trustees of Reservation project in Ipswich will be handled with private funding. Both of these projects are most positive and will improve land preservation that the mission of Essex heritage certainly endorses.

Loss of a Friend and Major Contributor to the Region

I learned earlier this week of the passing of Mary Kelly of Wenham. Mary served for many years as the long time Director of the Danvers Council on Aging. I had the wonderful pleasure to have served as the Chairman of the Board of the Council during the years during and after Mary led the Council to a National Accreditation. After Mary retired from the Town of Danvers, she joined the staff of the Danversbank, where she helped create Destinations Danvers, a widely successful travel program for bank clients. Mary touched many in this region over her years of service to both the Town of Danvers and the bank and in every case her impact was substantial. Mary Kelly left this earth a better place than is was when she first arrived. She will truly be missed. My condolences to her husband Tom and their four daughters. Rest in Peace Mary, and know that your efforts directed towards the seniors in this region were substantial and appreciated by all who you met and served.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Post from Florida, Informal Meeting with Wakefield Town Manager, Trustee Meeting Today, Regional Survey Planned

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2010 from Florida

We were a little concerned last Saturday morning that we would be delayed getting out of Boston, but the storm that impacted the mid Atlantic states really never arrived in Boston. We arrived in Florida that is a little different than years gone past. It has been a little cooler and cloudier than in other years, but since we have arrived we have not had to shovel any snow yet, so that is a plus. My reports on Essex Happenings a couple of times a week during the next six weeks will continue to focus on activities in the Essex Heritage region, with a few comments on the area that I am visiting.

Meeting with an Old Friend and Associate

Just before I left for Florida, I attended the monthly breakfast meeting of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce at the Marriott Hotel in Peabody. I sat with an old friend and former business associate that I had not seen in some time. Stephen Maio, the Town Administrator of the Town of Wakefield at one time worked for me at Salem Five. He left the bank to obtain a law degree, practiced law for a time in Salem and then ran successfully for a seat on the Wakefield Board of Selectmen. Steve has a long time connection to the Town as he was born and raised in that community, and if I remember correctly his dad served for many years as the Superintendant of Schools in Wakefield. He recently was named the Town Administrator for that Town, and now has responsibility for the management of that community of 26, 000 residents right on the borders of the Essex National Heritage Area, It was most pleasant to speak with him about plans that the Town has for their wonderful recreational asset, Lake Quannapowitt, which is used for biking walking, running, boating and other forms of exercise. Steve pointed out that the Town is working on plans to get locals and visitors alike that use the lake to go a step further and head into Wakefield’s downtown for lunch or dinner after their trip around the lake.

We also spoke about a bike trail that the town is working on developing that could ultimately connect into the larger series of trails being constructed all over this region. The Essex Heritage long time connection with the Coastal Trails Coalition in Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury and our connection with the Border to Boston bikeway will ultimately pay great dividends for this entire region because of the great connectivity of the region. As I look around the area where I will spend the next six weeks, I am clearly envious of the bike ways that exist in this part of Florida, and can only contemplate what our area in Essex County will look like a decade from today.

It was clear in my brief conversation with Steve Maio that even though Wakefield is not part of the Essex Heritage region that he is most aware of our mission, and is supportive of any effort that brings more visitors to this general region. The work of Essex Heritage to introduce the importance of the “quality of life issues” in this part of the State is important to all in the region, even if a particular community is not directly “in the Essex Heritage region”.

Essex Heritage Board of Trustees Meeting Held this Morning

This morning at the North Shore Chamber offices a quarterly Board of Trustees meeting was held. I could not be there, but I am pleased to note that at the meeting, Charlie Cullen of the Provident Bank in Newburyport was officially welcomed to the Board, and Bruce Whear of Wire for Hire in Salem was elected to the Board and joined the group at the meeting.

Potential for Regional Survey Outlined at Meeting

Another important issue that was scheduled to be examined at the Essex Heritage Board meeting held this morning was the outline of a regional study that could be underway shortly. Essex Heritage leadership has been discussing with Salem State College President Patricia Meservy and Dr. Lori Krebs of the Center for Economic Development and Sustainability the possibility of the college working collaboratively with Essex Heritage and the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development and possibly the North Shore Chamber of Commerce to complete a regional survey. The survey would help define “the quality of life” on the North Shore and to measure the economic value of that esoteric theory. The work would be accomplished this upcoming semester by the College with the help of its students and faculty. The starting point for this new cooperative venture took place at the ENHC Board meeting where the first test of the survey documents were completed Dr. Krebs conducted a short survey of ENHC Trustees at the meeting today to gain their insight into this issue. It is anticipated that the work to accomplish this task will take most of the spring 2010 semester, and in May or June results will be complete. At that time Essex Heritage will have quantifiable information that will assist the Commission is direct our preservation, promotion and education projects with a more direct focus. The results would then receive a wider dissemination as the region would be advised of the results.

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem

On St. Patrick’s Day 2010 the Salem Boys and Girls Club will be conducting a Shamrock Sweepstakes to benefit the wonderful work of the Salem club. The club serves hundreds of Salem youth, and programs are broad and varied and are run year round. A limited number of tickets will be sold for this event and winners will receive cash prizes at an event scheduled for March 17, 2010 at the Salem Waterfront Hotel. Tickets are available at many locations in Salem and can also be purchased at the club at 13 Hawthorne Blvd. in Salem. For more information see the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem web site at or call 978 744 0915

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Friday, February 5, 2010

Background on Essex Happenings, Background on the History of Essex Heritage and Posings to Originate from Florida


Offering a Little Background on “Essex Happenings”

The posting today to Essex Happenings will be a little different than the ninety three other postings that have preceded this entry. I began this initiative on a hot sunny day back on July 18, 2009 while sitting on the deck of my home on Cape Cod, On that day, my son Mark and I had been discussing the work that I had been doing since somewhere around 1990 when several of us in Salem thought that we could take the work that was being done by the Salem Partnership to make the City of Salem into a better place to live and work and advance that concept to include the entire region formally know as Essex County. Mark convinced me at that time, that putting some of my thoughts, ideas and experiences into sort of an electronic journal that could then be shared with others would be a positive experience for both me and potential readers of the journal.. After Mark planted that seed, he went off to other summer activities and I enlisted the help of my Grandson Brendan Leonard to help me set up and put the Essex Happenings BLOG into place. I posted my first entry that day, and it was not much more than an introductory examination of what I thought I could accomplish with this exercise.

Since that day on my back deck, when I put down a book I was reading and took up an electronic pen, I have fairly religiously posted three times a week to the Essex Happenings BLOG. In the intervening time I have authored about 100,000 words in this fashion. I make a conscious effort to journalize what is happening at Essex Heritage and in other related partner organizations in the Essex County region as faithfully as I can. I have never tried to position myself as the official voice of Essex Heritage, but since those early days in 1990, together with Annie Harris. I have been in a leadership role in the organization, so I do have some substantial history and recollections of the organization. What I have tried to do since that first journal entry, ninety three postings ago, is to try to monitor this region and offer my observations as they pertain to the work of Essex Heritage and our wonderful partner organizations.

Additional Background on the History of Essex Heritage

Just for a little background that may not have been offered in the past in this setting, let me note that I became involved with Essex Heritage first as a volunteer Chairman when I was till serving as a Senior Vice President at the then Salem Five Cents Savings Bank. I was the volunteer chairman first of a “want to be” heritage area, when several leaders of this region gathered together to establish the Essex

“Ad Hoc’ Commission. For the next four years we all diligently pursued obtaining a designation from the US Congress as a full blown heritage area. At that time there were only eight such entities in the entire country. We were successful in 1996 when the Congress established a second set of eight heritage areas, and the Essex National Heritage Area was one of those eight. We immediately established a management entity called the Essex National Heritage Commission to manage the recently commissioned area, and I was elected the Commissions initial President. In 1999 I retired from the Salem Five as it was then called, and not being ready yet for a porch and a rocking chair full time, I agreed to come to work for the Commission for 100 days a year as part time staff person. I served three two year terms during those days as President, and then felt that it was prudent to bring in another volunteer President to make sure we had some continuity. We have elected three wonderful volunteers to serve in that role over these last five years. I have enjoyed working with Larry Harrington now with Bank of America, Nancy Huntington Stager of Eastern Bank, and our current President Kevin Tierney the CEO of Saugus Bank, .and I was asked to stay involved and was and continue to be elected as the President Emeritus of Essex Heritage every two years. I still am an active staff member at the Commission and the only change is that I now work 90 days a year instead of the 100 days each year that I first committed to work a decade ago. I spend a good portion of the summer months on Cape Cod, and do take a respite for these wintery blasts in New England for six weeks in February and March each winter. I am about to leave tomorrow for that six week stay in what hopefully will be the sunny and WARM south. I fully intend as I always have always done during my six week hiatus to stay in touch electronically with the region and the office. I read the local newspapers electronically every day, and monitor all of my commission and personal e-mail, and intend to post entries to the Essex Happening Blog on a regular basis. The only concession I will make is that I expect to post twice each week during this time rather than the three times I have been posting.

Postings will Continue Temporarily from a New Location

So starting on next Tuesday continue to look for regular postings on Tuesday and Friday each week to “Essex Happenings” from my vacation spot in Treasure Island on the west coast of Florida. I will still offer my observations on the activities of Essex Heritage and all of our wonderful and committed partner organizations, and any other observations of life in Essex County that seem to be to be pertinent. I will still be with you in spirit and will be “talking” with you from time to time. Thanks for your continuing interest and support in these entries and the work of Essex Heritage. We remain committed to the preservation, protection and promotion of the historic, cultural and natural resources of Essex County.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Heritage Area meeting in Washington, North Shore Chamber Breakfast, North Shore Community College, New Commissioner and Sweet Salem Event


Alliance of Heritage Areas Executive Committee Meeting in Washington

Over the last several days, the Alliance of National Heritage Area’s leadership has been meeting in Washington to discuss matters of interest to the 49 Heritage Areas’ active at present in this country. Essex Heritage was one of the earliest Area’s to be so designated, with an approval that dates back to November 12, 1996. There were only eight heritage area’s that were approved before Essex Heritage with the earliest approval made in August 1984. Two of the original eight Heritage Area’s are located in New England and since the inclusion of Essex Heritage in the system one more New England site has been added, and that one was added less than one year ago in March 2009. That brings the total of the New England sites to four and that represents a fair percentage of the total active NHA’s. During the current meeting, the ENHC Executive Director, Annie Harris has joined with others on the Alliance’s Executive Committee to participate in a meeting with President Obama’s recently appointed Director of the National Park Service, John Jarvis. Mr. Jarvis has long been thought of as a champion of the National Heritage Area movement and meeting with him about the needs of the Heritage Area movement will hopefully be positive for the future of the movement.

North Shore Chamber Breakfast

This morning, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce held one of its informative monthly breakfast meetings. The setting this month was the Peabody Marriott Hotel and the speaker for the morning was the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation Executive Director, Michael Widmer. The foundation that was founded in 1932, and is widely recognized as the State’s premier policy organization dealing with state and local fiscal, tax and economic policy. The subject of the presentation this morning was the State Budget crisis and their expectations were that there is no real end in sight. Mr. Widmer as always presented substantial evidence to support their conclusions. He noted the substantial reduction in available jobs in the region and the impact that has on both revenues and expenditures. He did indicate that the budget just presented by the Governor was level funded for expenditures but that was a little misleading as shortfalls in revenue are still predicted and the gap will be made up by using one time revenue sources. He painted a rather dismal picture going forward as he indicated that based on their evaluations the reduction in State sales taxes that will be on the November 2010 ballot stands a good chance of passage, and that would continue to negatively affect the revenue picture for the state. His final admonition to the crowd in attendance was that something had to be done soon to slow the growth of insurance and retirement expenses for public employees as those items continue to have a most negative impact on expenses at all levels of government.

North Shore Community College Foundation

Yesterday morning, I attended the regular monthly meeting of the North Shore Community College Foundation Board that I serve on as a member. This particular meeting was important as much time was spent at the meeting briefing us on the impending capital campaign that the College will soon be undertaking. The college that is the 18th largest college operating in the Commonwealth serves slightly over 7200 students and operates two distinct campuses in Danvers and Lynn. The primary thrusts of the 2010 capital campaign will be three fold, and each of the three targets is of equal importance. The College will be seeking to raise one million dollars in gifts to support laboratory equipment and technology needs for the soon to be built Health Professions and Student Services Building that will be erected on the Danvers Campus. Funding through the Commonwealth is in place for the construction of the building, but the need to complete the outfitting of the building is a critical need.

A second leg of the capital campaign is to enhance the scholarship opportunities for students at the College. There is little question that it is becoming more and more difficult for students at the Community College to meet the financial needs of attendance. The College has several wonderful scholarship programs currently in place, but more support is urgently needed in this area. The final element of the fundraising effort is added substance and programs to the Lynn Initiative that responds to community needs relative to education and the continuing development of workforce opportunities.

All of these initiatives are most important to the continuing success of the school, and all on the board were urged to continue to help the College “open doors” to potential donors who might have an interest in supporting one of these three stated initiatives. The college provides wonderful opportunities to many in this region, and in these economic times the student population of the college has swelled as more and more adults have used this time to enhance their education. For more information on the college and its many programs that serve this region so well or if you wanted more information about the capital campaign or wanted information on how you could provide a scholarship for a student contact Tatiana Burgos-Espinal at or call her at 978 762 4000 X5527.

Meeting at Anna Jaques Hospital

Earlier this week, we had a wonderfully informative meeting with the President of Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport. Ms. Delia O’Conner the President and CEO of the hospital serving Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury and other surrounding communities has been a wonderful leader for this institution in Newburyport. Ms O’Connor was recently named a Commissioner of Essex Heritage, and Mary Williamson from the Essex Heritage staff and I traveled to the hospital to provide some detailed information on the Commission and the role of a Commissioner to complete her orientation. During our visit we learned as much about the committed community hospital that she heads as we imparted about the mission of Essex Heritage. The facility is certainly a wonderful asset to the region it serves, and another reason why this region is such a wonderful place to live and work. Ms O’Conner is a great addition to the list of Essex Heritage Commissioners and we are certain that she will be a superlative ambassador for our work in the region that the hospital serves.

Salem Chamber Event

Calling all chocolate lovers!!! Starting on Friday, February 5, 2010 and running through Valentine’s Day on 2/14 visitors to Salem will have a chance to sample chocolate all over Salem from Hamilton Hall to Pickering Wharf. In addition to the chocolate samples that will be provided there will be (weather permitting) ice sculptures and wine tasting events at stores and locations all over Salem. The event is sponsored by the Salem Chamber of Commerce and complete information on the events can be found on the Salem Chamber web site at

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wetland Site in Rowley Preserved, Newburyport Rail Trail Enhancements, Town Meeting in Danvers, Bishop Fenwick History, A Personal Note to End


Wetland Site in Rowley to be Preserved

A week or so ago, the Essex County Greenbelt Association made a purchase of slightly over 100 acres of open space in Rowley close to the Newbury line. The purchase of the property previously owned by East Boston Savings Bank is a major acquisition of land that will now protect a valuable wild life habitat and aid in the work of water resource conservation. The land that is mostly wetlands has been named by Greenbelt as the Great Swamp Brook Reservation. In its now preserved state the 106 acres site will be open to the public to use the land for such passive uses as walking, hiking, trail running, bird watching and snowshoeing. Greenbelt officials indicated that the land is perfect for conservation use and it presently home to many species. Additionally, the Great Swamp Brook runs trough the property and drains into both the Mill and Parker Rivers and that makes the property a wonderful water conservation resource. The swamp will also feed the Great Marsh the 25,000 acre resource that runs from Gloucester to southern New Hampshire. Essex Heritage has worked closely with Greenbelt since our inception, and congratulates them on their actions and the positive impact that it will have on the region that we both serve. East Boston Savings Bank should also receive plaudits for its actions, as it recognized the importance of the site to the area, and worked diligently with the leadership of Greenbelt to make the sale of the land and the ultimate acquisition of the land a reality. For more information about the work of Essex County Greenbelt visit their website at

Rail Trail Upgrades

One of the highest profile projects that Essex Heritage has lent help to in recent years is the rail trail effort in the tri-town region of Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport. A recent announcement noted that one of those trails; the Clipper City Rail Trail was the beneficiary of an enhancement project in that city that will help spread public art in the community. Newburyport city officials have installed eleven stainless steel fish sculptures along the length of the rail trail. Since Newburyport is so defined by its maritime heritage, and the rail trail runs along the Merrimack River the eleven sculptures of local fish species seems a perfect fit for the trail. The sculptures that were created by local artist Bob Kimball certainly adds to the ambience of the trail as one travels along the trail hard by the river. The Clipper City Rail Trail was one of the first links to be created in the Border to Boston trail long advocated for and helped to be managed by Essex Heritage, and this enhancement is another step in the overall development of rail trail improvements in the region.

Special Town Meeting in Danvers

A special Town meeting in Danvers a week ago received some recent press based on the decision of that group to reject a Selectman and Finance Committee recommendation to enact a texting while driving ban. That action overshadowed the action that was approved to create a new zoning bylaw that will likely change the look of the Danversport section of that town forever. This section of Danvers that was devastated by an explosion on the eve of Thanksgiving several years ago will see that area changed from an industrial zone to a waterfront village zone. The Planning Board of the Town spent several years working on this proposal and should be complimented on their efforts as the result of that work was supported by the affected neighborhoods.

Fifty Year History of Bishop Fenwick Published

A wonderful history of Bishop Fenwick High School to commemorate that schools Golden anniversary has been written and published. The history tome was produced by the school as part of its year-long celebration of its special anniversary. Congratulations to Sister Cathy Fleming, SND the principal of the school, Audrey Sullivan the Board of Trustees Chair, and particularly Gary Larrabee who authored the memorial history book. Gary Larrabee is a long time Commissioner of Essex Heritage and has produced a wide range of historical commemorative books, for other regional organizations, like St John’s Prep, Salem Five Bank, Salem Country Club and Wenham County Club. The school will also be holding a celebration Gala on March 16, 2010 at the Danversport Yacht Club and information on that event, how to purchase a Bishop Fenwick History Book and all other information about the 5oth Anniversary celebration can be found at

End Today’s Post with a Personal Note

Over this past weekend, we enjoyed two wonderful evenings of music that were very different but most enjoyable. On Friday we helped organize a concert at the complex where we live to help bring residents together and to raise money for a very worthy cause. Jody Meyer who I have known for many years in her role as a teacher at St John’s Prep and Anne Farmer make up a superb duo, that play a type of harmonious folk music. They presented a concert for a full house of residents at the Olde Salem Village complex in Danvers. Jodie and Ann who have a reputation of offering their services for good causes once again provided their wonderful music free of any charges since we had designated that all offerings collected that night would be sent to support the work of the Danvers People to People Food Pantry. The evening was a great critical success and a substantial gift of cash was raised for the food pantry.

On the following night, along with my sister and her husband we attended a concert at the DCU Center in Worcester with two country music stars. I would not say that I consider myself a Country music aficionado but several years ago, my wife and I attended a holiday show in Lowell that featured Martina McBride and we enjoyed that show so much that when we learned that she would be in Worcester we purchased tickets to attend. We were not disappointed as the show that featured Ms. McBride and another country music star, Trace Atkins was wonderful, and we all enjoyed the evening. It should also be noted that recently elected US Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown was in attendance at the concert and was introduced to what turned out to be an adoring crowd. Based on the reception he received in Worcester he certainly is a “man of the people”, and certainly much is expected of him as he makes his way to Washington in the weeks ahead.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard