Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heritage Hero Event Location, Essex Heritage Annual Appeal, Visit from NPS Deputy Director, Preservation Efforts Leads to Job Creation


Correction of Name of Venue where Heritage Hero will be Held

In the last BLOG posting on Essex Happenings offered last Friday, I noted that the Essex Heritage Spring 2010 Annual Meeting and the 3rd annual Heritage Hero event scheduled on the same day on May 20, 2010 would be held on the Beach in Salisbury. In a couple of references, in that posting I provided the wrong name of the venue that would be hosting those two regional events, The events will be held at Blue Ocean Music Hall, on Salisbury Beach. The owners of this new and exciting venue that also hosts a sensational new award winning restaurant called Sea Glass have been a most generous and agreeable host for this premier regional event and we are most appreciative of their efforts and apologize for noting the wrong name in our recent posting.

Essex Heritage Annual Appeal in the Home Stretch

As we close in on the end of the Essex Heritage fiscal year at the end of June, several efforts are underway to generate additional gifts to help support this work. The mission of Essex Heritage is focused on the preservation and the promotion of the historic, cultural and natural resources of this region and throughout the year numerous programs are offered to help focus that mission on the three quarters of a million residents of this region.

Planning for Trails and Sails the premier resident participation event offered each fall, this year for two weekends, is well underway, and the 2010 edition will offer even more events than ever before and will allow many more residents the opportunity to share in the resources of this region on two weekends in late September 2010. Meetings have been held through the most recent year to further the planning for the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway that will offer opportunities to preserve and promote the historic roadway in those thirteen communities along the spectacular 64 mile trail that winds its way along the coast of Essex County from Lynn in the south to Newburyport in the north, Educational initiatives continue for Essex Heritage partners using the Essex Links program along with several National Park Service programs, all designed to enhance the learning process for our area youth. In just a couple of weeks the 2010 edition of the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant program will be in place and ten applicants will be provided $2,500 grants to help them complete a preservation, education or interpretation grant. Those grants will help complete a local project, that will at the same time, advance the mission of Essex Heritage. The 2010 grant program awards will put the total partnership grant Program awards over the $1.75 million level and will have also produced an additional $15 Million in investments to the region. I think from this brief recap of just some of the programs being offered to the region by Essex Heritage one can easily gauge the value of this organization to the region and the justification for continuing support..

In the next couple of days, an electronic appeal will be delivered to the many Commissioners and friends of Essex Heritage offering them a second opportunity to provide financial support to help keep programs current and vital. If you provided support when the initial presentation was made in 2009 we certainly appreciate your support and endorsement of the work being accomplished by Essex Heritage. If you missed that opportunity then, it is certainly not too late to offer your continuing support to enhance the work of Essex Heritage. If you are on our mailing list or receive our monthly, informative electronic newsletter, look for this new electronic message, and if you believe our work to be beneficial to the region and can justify a financial gift to a regional organization it will be greatly appreciated.

At the same time as the electronic financial appeal is being directed towards the residents of the region, a targeted mailing will also be sent to the many business clients of Essex Heritage seeking their support as well. We also would welcome any new business who might want to make a contribution to these efforts. If you believe that the work being undertaken by Essex Heritage enhances the quality of life in this region, and makes this region a better place to work and secure employees please consider contacting us through the web site or at 978 740 0444. If by chance you do not receive one of these fiscal year end consumer or residential appeals, and want to help Essex Heritage continue to achieve its goals visit the Essex Heritage web site at www.essexheritage.org and follow the links to make a contribution.

Visit from National Park Service Deputy Director

In my most recent posting to this BLOG, I reported on a planned meeting with Mr. Mickey Fearn, the recently appointed National Park Service Deputy Director. The numerous meetings that were held throughout the day last Friday with Deputy Director Fearn were most productive and we are certain the Deputy Director came away from the meetings with a greater appreciation for the work and accomplishments of Essex Heritage. All of us who met with him were equally impressed with his understanding of the importance of the Heritage area movement both here and around the country. During the day, information on the structure and needs of Essex Heritage were provided, and Director Fearn had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of Essex Heritage, many regional political leaders and some of our most committed partners. We look forward to continuing the dialog started last week with the Deputy Director in the future.

Preservation Equals Jobs

Earlier this month, hundreds of preservation activists walked the halls of Congress to meet with elected officials to help deliver an important message that preservation efforts is a job creator. This is a rather simple message, but it is one that sometimes gets lost when people think about preservation efforts. As an organization that energetically and enthusiastically supports preservation, the job creation concept has always been foremost in our thinking. After many years of advocating for preservation legislation as an engine of economic expansion we know the importance of preservation to the economy. Just for an example, the Historic Rehab Tax Credit act has created over 1.8 million jobs since it was enacted in 1976. Preservation jobs created by programs like “Save America’s Treasures” are cost effective jobs creators as well as programs that preserve important resources. The National Park Service has estimated that this program alone has created over 16,000 jobs and preservation generally means green jobs, as preservation efforts generally mean more energy efficient improvements and that work contributes to a more sustainable environment. Preservation program are important to this country and to this region, and if you have a chance to make that case to our elected federal officials it would be appreciated.

Passover Holidays Begin

Last evening, many of our Jewish friends began the eight day celebration of Passover, the most important feast of the Jewish calendar. To all of them we wish them well as the week long celebration continues.

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. Thanks You. Tom Leonard

Friday, March 26, 2010

Partnership Grant Program, Heritage Hero Dinner, Quality of Life in the Region, National Park Service Activities


Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program Moves Towards a Conclusion

After a one year hiatus the Essex Heritage partnership Grant Program that has provided over $1.75 million in funding to the region is back and is preparing to make a series of new grants. In 2010 the Commission has made $25,000 available for this regional matching funds program. These awards will be provided to ten applicants in the form of $2,500 grants. Earlier this year a call was issued to the region that indicated that a “scaled down” on-line application was being encouraged and the Commission was very pleased to see a wonderful response. Forty seven applications were received, and that total was about the same level of activity as in the most recent years. The Commission team responsible for creating a process of selection headed by Director of Heritage Development, Bill Steelman created an electronic grading system and after a preliminary screening eliminated some of the applicants, the remaining applications were forwarded electronically to the Essex Heritage screening committee for a more detailed analysis based on the quality and appropriateness of the requests.

Essex Heritage has always been blessed by the willingness of a cadre of committed volunteers who are experts in their fields, who willingly agree to serve annually on the Grants Selection Committee. That committee is headed by Essex Heritage Board of Trustee and former Mayor of Amesbury, David Hildt. David has been a dedicated chairman for a number of years, and now as a member of the not-for-profit industry himself as the Executive Director of Adelante Youth Center in Lawrence certainly understands the needs of this segment of the regional economy. The balance of the 2010 Committee included Judy Anderson, an Old House Consultant from Marblehead, K Brewer Doran, Dean of the Bertolon School of Business at Salem State College, Doug Kelleher, a preservation consultant with Epsilon Associates, Diana Kerry, from the North Shore Community College, Emily Murphy of the National Park Service and the Salem National Maritime Historic Site, Jessica Rowcroft of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Michael Steinitz of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Mary Whitney a Consultant to Non profits and Rebecca Zimmerman, from Essex Links. We certainly appreciate all that this group of volunteers, many of whom are Commissioners of Essex Heritage do for this region and for this particular program.

This year in a change from past years, the remaining applicants were presented to the committee in an electronic format and the group diligently completed their review and subsequently voted on-line. All of the votes have now been cast and a slate of nominees for the awards has been organized. That list will now be presented to the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees early next month for final confirmation and then during the next several weeks all of the applicants will be notified of the actions taken on their grant application. On May 20, 2010 at the annual spring meeting of the Essex National Heritage Commission that will be held at 4:00 pm at the Blue Water Music Hall on the beach in Salisbury, just prior to the third annual Heritage Hero Awards Dinner, the ten grant recipients for 2010 will be announced to the public.

Heritage Hero Dinner

Just a brief note about the Heritage Hero Dinner, just mentioned above is appropriate at this point. This year’s event that will honor three of the most prominent citizens of the three towns in the northeast corner of this region is now only two months away, and invitations will be mailed in the next week or so. Please look for the invitation in the mail or visit the Essex Heritage web site at www.essexheritage.org for more information about the event, It is never to early to make a reservation for this premier regional event. Tickets will move very quickly and you do not want to miss the opportunity to be at the Blue Water Music Hall on the Beach in Salisbury on May 20, 2010 when Essex Heritage recognizes the life achievements of Nick Costello, Byron Mathews, and Maria Miles

Quality of Life Survey

Some time ago, I noted that the Salem State College Center for Economic Development and Sustainability has agreed to conduct and evaluate a Quality of Life survey in the region for Essex Heritage and other regional organizations. The regional survey is seeking to define how “quality of life” issues can be quantified and the value of them to the local economy is measured. Essex Heritage has long believed that many who call this region home cite these values as primary reasons for living or working in this region. Now you can help us measure the value of this important component of life in this region. When I last wrote of this issue, we did not have a web site at the college in place at that time for you to complete the rather simple survey. That site is now in place and would you link to the site at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/qualityoflifestudy and consider completing the survey to help us with this effort

Celebrate National Park Week Next Month

Each year during the month of April, the National Parks in this country including the two units of the Park Service in our region celebrates National Park week. It is a great time to get out into the great outdoors and help celebrate the start of spring. Each year the Park Service takes special time to celebrate what we have all inherited as Americans, 84 million acres of the world’s most spectacular scenery, historic landmarks and cultural treasures. During National Park week that this year will be celebrated from April 17 through April 24 the parks invite you to celebrate your special ownership of these assets. There are opportunities for volunteers and it is a great time to take a young person to a park and introduce them to these regional treasures. During National Park week entrance fees are waived at all sites so it is great time to get outside and enjoy the parks. It is never too early to make plans to visit a National Park site during this special week long celebration and enjoy all that is offered at one of these spectacular locations. In our region we are blessed to have two units of the National Park Service located in Salem and Saugus. The Salem Maritime Historic site and the Saugus Iron Works Historic Site are wonderful resources that help bring the long and storied history of this region to life. For more information about National Park Week visit the special web site that has been created at www.nationalparkweek.org

Visit to the Region by the National Park Service’s Deputy Director

Speaking of the National Park Service, later today, along with the Essex Heritage President, Kevin Tierney and Executive Director, Annie Harris, I and others from our Executive Board will have the opportunity to spend a little time with the recently appointed Deputy Director of the National Park Service. Mr. Mickey Fearn is spending part of his day today with Salem and Saugus National Park Service Superintendant Patty Trap and her staff touring this region. Before his recent appointment, Mr. Fearn was associated with the City of Seattle, Washington where he created and directed a summer youth program for the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Mr. Fearn was involved in many other activities in that West Coast City, and previously served as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commissioner. He has also held management positions with the Governor of California, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation and the City of Oakland. We are looking forward to the opportunity to meet with him and bring him current on the many ongoing and active youth education based programs of Essex Heritage in its ongoing partnership with the National Park Service.

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Bill, Essex Heritage Scenic Byway Meetings Continue, Trustee to be Honored at Reception, and New Employee Introduced


It was nice to return to New England and particularly to be back in Essex County. I arrived back in Boston on Saturday afternoon and at the time I landed at Logan Airport the temperatures were in the mid seventies. On Saturday it was a bit warmer here than where I came from in the Tampa section of Florida. Let’s hope that the wonderful day on Saturday and the fair day on Sunday are a sign that maybe this year we might experience a spring season. Now as I made the trip into the office this morning in the heavy, wind blown rain, I wonder if spring is on the way or not.

I am back in the Essex Heritage office this week and after an early morning staff meeting on Monday, I am quickly finding myself back into a more normal, regular routine. While I was away, I provided BLOG postings twice each week on Tuesdays and Fridays. At least for the time being, I am going to continue that schedule of postings, and I suspect with that frequency that I can keep you up to date on the activities of Essex Heritage and the work of our many partners. Certainly if news or developments that would be have interest to you happened more frequently, then you can count on me to provide an occasional additional update to the Essex Happenings BLOG.

Historic Health Care Bill Passed in Washington

While the work of the US Congress, particularly as that work pertains to preservation or funding legislation to support the mission of Essex Heritage and for the Alliance of National Heritage Areas is always of great interest to me, it only seems appropriate to make a comment today on the historic health care legislation passed on Sunday. Over the last several decades, a number of American Presidents and Congresses have attempted to address the health issue without any success, and I suppose only the test of time will determine if what was passed on Sunday is good or bad for the majority of the American public. Medical costs in this country have been increasing faster than almost any other segment of the economy, and attempting to curtail those costs by making substantive changes seems to have been worth the effort. The provisions in the legislation that provides insurance coverage for those currently without coverage and the changes that protect families from being economically disadvantaged by a catastrophic illness seems also to be beneficial to many.

It appears to be a good bet that the opposition to the changes that will take place as a result of the current legislation when signed by the President will continue to oppose what has been proposed, and there will likely still be a period of great unrest in the country. President Barack Obama has risked his presidency and his long term legacy on the passage of this landmark legislation, and giving the practices created in the bill a chance to work seems to me to be worthwhile. In this country, we all seem to be a bit impatient, and I suspect that those that have and will continue to be opposed to the current plan will most likely demand instant proof of success or they will continue to line up to try to change what has been passed. I Hope that we might all consider giving the plan a bit of time to see if the promises made by the present administration can be proven and the plan will prove to be beneficial and economical for large numbers of the American population.

Current Round of Essex Heritage Scenic Byway Regional Community Meetings Completed.

Over the last several months a series of regional meetings have been held by Essex Heritage providing officials from the coastal communities included on the Scenic Byway to offer input into the planning for the preservation and promotion of the roadway that winds its way along our spectacular coastline. This third round of meetings has now been completed and Essex Heritage was very pleased by both the level of participation and the input offered. The consulting team, Taintor Associates that has been engaged to help with the planning for the Essex Heritage Scenic Byway will now evaluate all of the information provided at the regional meetings and will prepare a report that will highlight the results of the meeting, and the report will be distributed to the participants for additional comments. This fall another series of public meetings will be offered in the participating communities and at that time the general public will have an opportunity to offer pertinent comments to Essex Heritage and their consulting team. Essex Heritage continues to seek additional funding for the Scenic Byway to help assure that the needs and the wishes of the participating communities have a chance to be implemented. Funding in this difficult economic climate is certainly not assured, but every opportunity will be explored in the hopes of finding additional funding for this highly participatory regional project...

Retirement Reception Invitation Received Today from Eastern Bank

Upon my return to the office, I found an invitation from Eastern Bank to a Retirement Reception for a member of the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees. Sumner Jones has served Eastern Bank and their many customers for a quarter of a century and he will be feted at a reception in mid April. I have been associated with Sumner for many years and have served with him on several other community organizations in this region. In addition to his Trustee role at Essex Heritage that will continue, he has also served in leadership roles at the Salem Partnership, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, and Salem Access TV. Sumner is well deserving of the accolades that will be offered at the upcoming retirement reception for his exceptional community activism and service. We look forward to continuing to have Sumner as a Trustee at Essex Heritage where he serves as the Chairman of our Nominating Committee.

Welcome to New part Time Essex Heritage Employee

Essex Heritage has recently obtained the services on a part time basis of Thomas P. Buttacavoli to assist the Commission in the maintenance of the financial records of the organization. Tom is a certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an operationally oriented, seasoned financial executive with proven success in managing financial and administrative functions. In the past Mr. Buttacavoli, has worked in the manufacturing and the real estate business and began his career at KMPG Peat Marwick, Boston. We are pleased that Tom has agreed to assist Essex Heritage in the complex world of financial reporting required of today’s not-for-profit organizations.

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Finishing My Stay in Florida, Several Educational Upates, Essex Heritage Grants Committee to Meet Next week


Finishing our Winter Vacation in Florida

As I prepare this posting to Essex Happenings, I am getting closer and closer to the time when I will be returning to Essex County. The six weeks that my wife and I spent in the Tampa/St Petersburg section of Florida has always been a most pleasant part of the year. We get to spent a pleasant period with lifelong friends of ours from Peabody, and continue a wonderful traveling relationship that goes back to the days when our children were just born. The weather here this year was not what we have come to expect as it was considerably cooler than usual, but still was a most pleasant time as are able to escape from the end of the winter period in New England, and during the last two weeks we were here the weather was more like Florida.

All that said, as we get closer to our return date to New England in the morning, I could truthfully say that I am looking forward to getting back to the work of Essex Heritage. During the time we have been here we have been able to play a little golf, read a substantial number of wonderful books including Senator Ted Kennedy’s memoir, Moral Compass. I have been putting off reading that book, as the Senator was so close to the work we are doing at Essex Heritage that I wanted to let a little time pass before reading the memoir. I am glad I waited a bit and truly enjoyed the presentation. While we have been here I took advantage of the nicer weather with no snow or ice on the roads to take a wonderful long walk virtually every day of our stay. The terrain here is mostly flat and there is a stretch of wonderful beach where one can enjoy a walk as the waves either crash or lap onto the beach depending on the weather. I made a commitment to walking a substantial distance every day, and for the most part met that commitment. I also took out a seasonal membership in an active community YMCA in St. Petersburg, and participated a several workouts at that facility that offered all that one could ask for, to keep active as well. The time has passed quickly and I hope that I offered some observations of what happens here in this region that you have enjoyed, “participating’ in a way in our winter sojourn. See you all soon around the region, and it will be good to get back to work at Essex Heritage on Monday, March 22, 2010.

Regional Educational Initiatives

In the past, I have devoted some space in these entries to regional educational initiatives, as education has always been important to me. In the past I have had the good fortune to serve at several levels in both public and private schools. Several tears ago, when the Salem Partnership fostered an Adopt a School program in Salem, I served for a couple of years on a school council at the Bentley School in Salem. I later served Salem State College when the current President of North Shore Community College was the Dean of the Business School at the College. Salem State organized a business advocacy group who could speak out for the business school if needed, and I served as President of that group. That school is doing very well now under the leadership of Dr. Brewer Doran, and now the school is helping Essex Heritage undertake a survey that will help us measure the value of quality of life issues in Essex County,

When Dr. Wayne Burton became the President of the North Shore Community College I agreed to serve on his Foundation Board, and today I still serve on the Board, and find that work most gratifying as we continue to try to help provide for students who might not have the college opportunity without that support. I serve on a scholarship Committee at the college and we are about to embark on a series of community breakfasts to help bring attention to those needs. The first of those informational breakfasts will be held at the school next Friday morning.

Just a couple of days ago, I noted the Golden Anniversary that Bishop Fenwick is currently celebrating, and I am pleased to say that until last year I served a term on that board as they continue to provide quality private education to this region’s youth. The school continues to provide wonderful opportunities to youth in the region, and I am proud to still be able to help that regional institution from time to time.

It is likely clear from my past postings, that I have a special affection for St. John’s Prep in Danvers. I am a proud Golden Eagle Alumni and in the past served three plus terms on the Board of Trustees of that school. Even today I serve as the co-chair of an endowment committee that seeks to develop gifts from fellow alumni to perpetuate the good work being accomplished at the Prep. I had two sons graduate from the Prep in the 1980’s, a wife who worked at the school’s Guidance Office for a quarter century, and even now I have a grandson, Brendan Leonard who in his junior year at the Prep who will become a member of the Prep alumni association when he graduates in 2011.

A couple of days ago, the Prep made public a plan that has been in the planning stage for about a year or so, that focused on a transition of leadership at the school. Headmaster Dr. Skip Shannon, who has taken the school to new levels since he became the first ever lay Headmaster at the Prep about a decade ago will in the future assume the role of Headmaster Emeritus and he will be replaced as Headmaster by the current school Principal and chief operating officer, Dr. Edward Hardiman. During the time that Dr Shannon has been in charge the wonderful campus with its college type environment have been updated, and the facility that he will soon turn over the Ed Hardiman is in superb condition. Skip Shannon has accomplished much during his tenure, and the school and all of its students, parents, alumni and friends are all better off for his attention to the needs of the school. I still serve as a Trustee Emeritus at the Prep and in the last several years I have seen what Dr. Hardiman can accomplish and I look forward to working with him in the future as he continues the traditions established over the past century, by Dr, Shannon and the wonderfully dedicated Xaverian Brothers like Brother Bill Drinan CFX, and Brother Ed Keefe CFX who preceded Skip Shannon. I am most confidant that the Prep, even with the recent disclosure of an allegation of financial mismanagement by a former employee is in wonderful hands with Dr. Hardiman at the helm, and I look for continuing good times under his leadership.

Several Projects will be Addressed in the First Full Week Back

During my first week back at the office I will have the good fortune to participate in the work of the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Committee as they work to choose from a series of grant applicants to name some new grant winners. I also have a couple of personal activities that I a looking forward to when I return, I have a dinner planned with two wonderful friends from my days at Salem Five, and my wife and I are truly looking forward to that dinner. We will also help serve a dinner in Danvers to those in need along with other members of the St. Richard’s Parish Council. I also want to encourage any of you who have any questions or need any additional information about the work of Essex Heritage to feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Northeast Harvest Agricultural Fair, Legislature Moves to Ban Junk food, North Shore Music Theatre Annonces 2011 Schedule

As I enter the last week of my winter sojourn in Florida, I thought that I would offer one more comment on a Florida attraction that I had the good luck to enjoy. This location was one that we visited twice. The first time was early in our stay and the second visit was just this past weekend. The second visit was made because the fist stop was so enjoyable. The location visited was the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market. This is one busy place with hundreds of vendors displaying their agricultural products, crafts, greenery and baked goods for sale. The market that was first organized in 2002 is the largest market place of its kind in the State of Florida. The farmers market part of the gathering is spectacular with a wide variety of local home growth products for sale, There are citrus products of all kinds, and fresh vegetables ranging from tomatoes to green beans and other locally grown produce.

The vendor that attracted dozens of potential purchasers including me was Rudy’s Produce. This is a family business and Rudy’s oldest son Nadar is a show under himself. Nadar sings and carries on some wonderful banter with the long line of clients as he cores and slices pineapples for the amazing price of two for $5.00. The product itself is amazing, and I have enjoyed the slices of pineapple in cereal and as just an appetizer to almost every meal. The market that also offers local entertainment draws local residents and well as visitors and the most difficult part of the visit is trying to find a place to park. It is interesting to note that the marketplace takes place in the parking lot of a famous old Florida ball park called Al Lang Field named after a former Mayor of St Petersburg who was instrumental in bringing Spring Training baseball to Florida in 1916. Many major league teams have played at the field, including the Philadelphia Phillies, the Boston Braves, the New York Yankees, and the St Louis Cardinals and until last year the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year the Rays moved their training facility south to Port Charlotte in an attempt to open a new group on potential fans to that team. Over the years I have watched many games in the park while the Rays played there, and the history of the field make it that much more enjoyable to watch spring baseball.

Northeast Harvest Day at the Topsfield Fair

While we are on the subject of agriculture, and since I just provided some information on a wonderful Farmers Market of a sort that I attended in St Petersburg, I want to offer some information on an activity for farmers that will be held in our region. Essex Heritage has had for some time a relationship with the Essex Agricultural Society to assist the farmers of this region. That relationship has been advanced with a website and a monthly newsletter that provides information to consumers about the wonderful agricultural resources available in this region. Now the relationship that is called Northeast Harvest Buy Local is offering a first ever seminar for the agricultural resources of the area.

Northeast Harvest Buy Local is hosting Ag Day on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 from 9 AM to 3 PM at Coolidge Hall at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. Farmers, farmers' market management, agricultural commissioners, state officials, and legislators from Middlesex and Essex Counties are invited to attend. Among the speakers will be Essex County Farm Bureau President Lisa Colby, Massachusetts Farm Bureau President Rich Bonanno, MDAR Commissioner Scott Soares, Essex National Heritage marketing director Mary Williamson, and others who will enlighten us with the latest in farming news and techniques. Spray credits have been applied for (two different sessions available), morning coffee and lunch will be served, and farm kits will be distributed. Information on the use of the website will be provided by Mary Williamson from the Essex Heritage office.

Legislature Considering a Ban of Junk Food in Area Schools

Staying on the food theme, I did read in the local papers recently that the State Legislature is now considering a ban of certain junk foods in our local schools. This initiative if approved seems to be a most positive step. I know that we can never legislate good health for teenagers, but whatever steps that can be done to help limit the amount of junk food and soda that is consumed by are teenagers is helpful. It appears that our some of our local teenagers are getting the wrong diet and anything that can be done to help control the epidemic of teen obesity would be a great step. I did see a notice in a local paper here in Florida that the Panera Chain will become the first fast food national chain to post the caloric counts of food served in their stores. This seems like another positive step that other fast food chains might consider emulating.

Danversbank Announces that Jack Good will join that Bank

It was nice to see an announcement recently that Jack Good has agreed to join the staff of Danversbank. Jack has been a wonderful community activist for many years, and I am proud to be able to call him a friend. Jack worked for many tears for Beverly Hospital as their primary community contact and just recently Jack worked for Beverly National Bank that was recently acquired by Danversbank. Jack has also served Essex Heritage with great distinction as a Commissioner.

Congratulations to Two Area Schools

On Saturday evening two local schools both from the lower Merrimack Valley section of Essex County won State Basketball Titles. The girls from Andover beat East Longmeadow to secure the Division One title and Central Catholic High School beat St John’s of Shrewsbury by a single point to win the boys Division One State Title. Congratulations to both schools and the athletes who represented them so successfully this year.

North Shore Music Theatre Announces 2010 Schedule

It was nice t see an entertaining schedule of performances announced for the new North Shore Music Theatre. The schedule that ends with the Christmas Carol during the holiday season begins in July and looks like it might bear some promise. I hope that the new management at Theatre can find a way to encourage the large base of season tickets holders from the past regime to support the new schedule. The large and loyal group of season ticket holders from the past were severely disadvantaged by the last management group, and it would seem that trying to find a way to get that group reengaged would be a positive marketing strategy.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Since I will not post on March 17th, let me offer all of you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day today.

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Florida Visits, Essex Heritage Grant Information, Bike News from Danvers, Hamilton Interviews Candidates, and Bishop Fenwick Gala,


Visit to Local Agricultural Fair

We recently spent part of a day on a visit to a local agricultural festival in a community about 30 miles north and east of where we stay in Florida. Plant City founded in the mid 1800 as a community that focused on cotton growth has had several names in the past. It was first founded as Ichepucksassa in response to the Indian tribe that first settled the community, and then after that name caused too much difficulty it was renamed Village Cork after the community in Ireland. The community was in due course-renamed Plant City after a prominent businessman who brought the railroad to the community.

The Plant City Strawberry festival is organized annually in a community that is in the heart of the agricultural section in this part of Florida. Plant City is a community that focuses almost entirerly on agriculture. The community now produces three quarters of the winter strawberrys produced in this country, and also provided other produce to the region as well. The Strawberry Festival we visited is one of the largest collections of vendors that I have ever viewed. I have never seen more food stands or amusement rides in one location. The event makes Jim O’Brien’s Topsfield Fair event look small by comparison. In fact there were many similarities to our annual event that focuses in the farming work accomplished in Essex County. There were dozens of strawberry stands offering that fruit in as many variations as one could imagine. The best application was a Strawberry shortcake location offered by a local Catholic Church community that put on quite an event. I spoke to one of the volunteers that helped run the stand, and she was one of 1100 parishioners who donated time and commitment to make that event into a major fundraiser for the church community over the eleven days that the Festival is offered. They served the desert to a steady line of visitors included me, and clearly this use of strawberries was most delicious.

Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program Produces Numerous Applications

The closing date for grant applications for the Essex heritage Partnership Grant program has come and gone. Bill Steelman from the Essex Heritage office who is managing this process reported recently that the applications process was most gratifying in 2010. As many of you know due to funding concerns, Essex Heritage was forced to put the Grant Program into hiatus for 2009 after many years of providing a substantial number of grants to communities and our many non-profit partners. In 2010 we have found that is will be possible to offer a scaled back version of the program, and that news was well received by the region. Since the inception of this program Essex Heritage has provide over $1.7 million in matching grants to almost 200 area recipients, and those grants have produced an addition $15 million in matching investments to the region.

The application program in 2010 has produced 46 total requests and that matches the application activity in most of the recent years. A process to deal with the applications has been established where a winnowing process has been set in place to bring a manageable number of applications to a grants selection committee for their recommendations. That committee is made of a broad representative group of individuals from across the region, many of who have provided their special expertise in this area for many years. David Hildt of Amesbury who has handled this task and managed the process most effectively for the last several years leads the Committee again this year. That Grant selection committee will meet before the end of this month, and then after an additional review by the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees, final recommendations will be made public by early May 2010. In 2010, Essex Heritage has made $25,000 available for this process and ten $2,500 Partnership grants will be available to the region.

Danvers Bi-Peds Activities

The Danvers Bi-Peds were organized several years ago with a goal of helping to assure that the Town of Danvers creates a safe environment for biking in the Town of Danvers and to help with the development of a bike and pedestrian trail on an old abandoned rail line in that town. Since the inception of that group they have made substantial progress towards that goal, and several of their members now serve on the official Town managed Rail Trail Committee. The group recently announced that on Saturday, March 13, they would be offering their fifth trail walk along the proposed rail trail. The walk this month will be a two-mile round trip event and will be appropriately called the Shamrock Stroll. For more information on the walk or about anything connected with biking in the Town of Danvers, contact ibarry@danversbipeds.org. The event will be held as scheduled on 3/13 unless bad winter weather arrives. For information on a possible cancellation please check at the e-mail address shown above. Also the official Town of Danvers Rail Trail Committee will hold its next scheduled meeting in the Town Hall on March 18, 2010. As with all Town meetings that event is open to the general public.

Interviews with Three Candidates for Hamilton Town Manager

Over the past weekend the Town of Hamilton held interviews with prospective candidates for the recently created position of Town Manager. The Town has recently changed its organizational structure to create this new position with more authority than the previous Town Administrator position. Essex Heritage certainly stands ready to work with the new manager for the Town of Hamilton when chosen, and will provide whatever assistance we can offer to make the transition as seamless as possible and to offer our help and any updates on regional issues that a new Manager might require.

Bishop Fenwick 50th Anniversary Gala

I believe that that there may be just a few more tickets available for the Gala being planned by Bishop Fenwick High School on March 19, 2010 to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of that regional private school. The event scheduled for the Danversport Yacht club will be a spectacular event as alumni from the past fifty years and parents and friends of the school join together to celebrate five decades of educational successes. The school has accomplished a great deal in the last half century and all over this region we can find Bishop Fenwick Alumni in leadership positions. If you have a connection to the school it is not too late to make a reservation and you can contact www.bishopfenwick.org for more information or to assure that a seat is available at an event that will certainly be talked about for years to come.

No Matter Where you are the News is the Same

If I were not certain that I am in Florida, I would think I were reading Essex County newspapers, as I read the local news. The big news here in the Sunshine state is the banning of texting in autos, and a big move to open three full service gambling resort casinos in Florida; I guess that the news in pretty much the same regardless of where you are residing.

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Red Sox Spring Training, Health and Pension Reforms, Loan to Lawrence, Salisbury Visitor Center, Danvers Kiwanis Presentation


Visit to a Red Sox vs. Orioles Spring Baseball Game

I know that many of you are waiting patiently for the Red Sox season to begin to get a fix on the 2010 team. On Sunday, my friend Bob Sullivan and I went to Sarasota to Ed Smith Field to see the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles in a Spring Training game. Similar to all Red Sox games away from home parks, the Spring home ballpark of the Orioles in Sarasota was packed with Red Sox fans like us looking for a touch of Spring. Several Red Sox regulars including Bucholtz, Ellsbury, Drew, Ortiz, Martinez and Lowrie all played three or four innings and then wholesale substitutions were made. The Red Sox rallied in the late innings to beat the Orioles and the newest Rex Sox prize rookie Casey Kelly pitched two scoreless, hitless innings to get the win. To date Kelly has had a couple of impressive early Spring outings, but I would suspect that when they start playing the games for real he will start the year in Portland or Pawtucket, but his future based on what I saw looks bright. Sunday was only an early exhibition game, but it was nice to see baseball being played. The grass was green, the game was on and the weather a bit warmer than it has been. All in all, t was a very pleasant afternoon in the Florida sunshine.

Reforms Needed to Insure Continued Financial Viability of our Local Communities

In the last several weeks, I have read several op-ed pieces and general news stories in local Massachusetts’s media outlets that have called for changes in State laws concerning municipal workers health insurance and pension reform. Virtually all of the reports that I have seen support a change generated by the Massachusetts Legislature that would allow local communities to make changes in health care and retirement benefits without a positive vote by employee unions. That proposal seems to me to be a most necessary in today’s economic climate. I certainly understand how diligently local municipal unions have worked over the years to obtain the medical and retirement benefits they now have, but unless there is some give on both sides of this issue some municipalities will certainly face most difficult financial times in the very near future. I serve on the Town of Danvers Finance Committee and with the continuing reductions in State aid offered year after year have put many if these municipal governments in a most tenuous situation. There are even moves pending next year that could see revenues reduced to even lower levels with a Sales Tax reduction vote and a rollback of alcoholic beverages sales tax due as a ballot issue this coming November. It is most clear that the communities must take action to reduce expenditures and not to spend what they do not have in hand.

I want to make it very clear, that I am not speaking relative to this matter on behalf of the Essex National Heritage Commission, but rather am speaking for me personally. It is imperative that our elected officials who represent this region on Beacon Hill in Boston consider changes soon that would provide local Mayors and Town Managers health care plan design and pension reform controls without the prior approval of the municipal unions. It is imperative that the local communities in this region and the committed municipal workers who keep these communities strong and provide such wonderful public safety and educational services to all of us come together to “meet in some middle ground” to insure the continuing financial viability of the Cities and towns in the area. Without these meaningful adjustments in the near future the municipal services we have all come to expect will have to be cut back to even lower levels.

House Approves 35 Million Loan to the City of Lawrence

It appears that the proposed loan from the Commonwealth to the City of Lawrence is slowly working its way through the two houses of the Legislature. The loan proposal passed the house recently and will now be presented to the Senate for a vote. I certainly hope that as the loan proposal progresses all of the safeguards that were discussed early in the process stay in place. It will be critical that all of those criteria stay in the bill to insure oversight when the funds are advanced to the City. It is certainly most important that the City of Lawrence and all of its residents are provided with an opportunity to put that important Essex County community back on an even keel so we certainly support the loan with proper safeguards.

North of Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau and the Salisbury Visitor Center

All of us at Essex Heritage were very disappointed to learn that the work that the management team of “North of Boston” was doing behind the scenes to get the Salisbury Visitor Center reopened seems to have been for naught. We were aware of some strong support from the Essex County Legislative delegation that had been mounted in support of the reopening, and I am certain that work will go on as long as possible to see if a solution can be reached. But the short-term news seems bad, as it appears that even as the 2010 Tourist Season approaches, NBCVB has announced that the outlook seems difficult at best. The notice from NBCVB sent recently to their members and friends indicated that in addition to not having a solution to the end the closure, that they has to lay off, at least temporarily. Bill Pickles the manager of the facility. Bill is a most important member of the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees and we certainly hope that like the temporary closure of the Welcome Center, Bill’s layoff will also be temporary. Essex Heritage continues to offer its total support to the North of Boston group and stands ready to advocate for any issue of importance to them and this region.

Elizabeth Rankin to Speak to Danvers Kiwanis Club

Today at the Danversport Yacht Club, Elizabeth Rankin the Essex Herutage Director of Communication and the Director of the very successful Explorers Program will be the guest speaker at the Danvers Kiwanis Club. The invitation to Elizabeth came from club President Irene Kucinski, who I serve with on the Danvers Historical Society Board. Irene is a very committed Danvers activist, and her invitation to Elizabeth will certainly result in a most interesting and informative presentation to her members. Elizabeth is the acknowledged force behind the ENHC Explorers Program. Elizabeth manages that program that brings the 300 members of the Program to a series of quarterly events at places not usually open to the general public. It is certain that the attending members of the Danvers Kiwanis Club will leave the luncheon meeting today with much more information than when they arrived for lunch, and hopefully Elizabeth will leave with a few more members for the ENHC Explorers program.

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

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weather Issues, CPA Legislation Progressing, Nenburyport Updates, MIAA Basketball Game


Weather Here and Up and Down the Atlantic Coast

I have been most reluctant to comment on the weather while I have been visiting Florida for this last month, lest it appears that I am complaining, but the weather has been most unusual. When we talk to people that have lived here for years or that have visited in the winters they confirm that this winter season is without precedent. I can only comment on what has transpired since early February, but the cool, very unseasonable weather has been in place this season since December 2009. In past visits we have experienced the occasional cold front that would come in from the north every other week or so, and would hang around for a day or so and then we would return to typical Florida weather. This year has been most different as the cold fronts seem to come through every four or five days and it never really warms up to the typical conditions. In the almost four weeks that we have been here, I believe that we have only seen one or two days when the temperatures reach into the seventies

On the other hand I have a friend in the New Jersey area that has experienced three snowstorms of over a foot and a half in just the last month. This same friend advises that in the previous three years he did not even have to take out his snow blower during the winter. While we feel sorry for our friend in the mid Atlantic states from New York to the Carolinas we are pleased the New England seems to have been spared from heavy snow so far this winter season. There certainly have been plenty of rain, and about a week ago the Essex County region experienced some heavy wind and lots of damage and power outages, so the region was not immune to bad weather. When we add in two unbelievable earthquakes to strike the Caribbean and then South America. We are certainly experiencing our share of uncomfortable weather worldwide.

Substantial Work Being Done to Keep Newburyport Downtown Fresh and Current

I hope that all of the friends of Essex Heritage saw the story that appeared in the Boston Globe North edition over the weekend. The story provided a wonderful recap of some behind the scenes work being done by three old friends in Newburyport. The three men responsible for a renewed interest in keeping the downtown section of this historic port city in good shape are Byron Mathews, Jon Woodman and Jack Bradshaw. This is not new work for these three community activists as they were the same three responsible for the renaissance of the city three decades ago. The work that they fostered thirty years ago turned a community that has started to show its age into a Mecca for retail shopping and dinning was a labor of love and a godsend for the community. They have resurrected their energies once again to work on raising funds to correct some of the wear and tear issues that have crept into the wonderful work that they did years ago. This effort to raise private funds to help keep the City of Newburyport at the “top of its game” is to be applauded. They have raised awareness of the issues and generated substantial interest in lending a hand to their effort. They recruited the Sheriff of Essex County, Frank Cousins and he has provided some help with work crews that have eradicated unsightly graffiti and repaired some of the brickwork that had started to deteriorate. We take special interest in this effort, as former Mayor Byron Matthews is one of our three Heritage Hero award winners that will receive awards in May 2010 at the Tupelo Music Hall in Salisbury. Our choice of Byron, as a Heritage Hero winner continues to gain even more traction, as he has never been willing to rest on past accomplishments and is constantly tackling new challenges like the update of the renewal efforts in his home town of Newburyport.

CPA Legislation Moving Forward and Peabody Used CPA Funds Again

At Essex Heritage we have received a communication from the Community Preservation Coalition urging us to support their efforts and to get others to weigh in to get the Community Preservation Act updated. Senate the House Ways and Means Committee are currently considering Bill 90 and if the bill receives a favorable recommendation the bill could be presented to the House and the Senate late this year for passage. The community Preservation Act has been approved by about half of the communities in Essex County and many other communities in the region could benefit if the law is passed. The CPA has been a most important law as the funding statewide has created many jobs, preserved thousands of acres of agricultural land and open space, has preserved or rehabilitated 1600 historic sites and has helped create over 3000 units of affordable housing. Please consider contacting your state Senator or Representative and ask them to support this proposed legislation.

In this region the City of Peabody that seems to be the poster child for this legislation is active again using CPA funds. That community’s City Council just approved an appropriation of $6,800.00 to restore a historic mural in an old post office now used by a local non-profit. The mural that is 12 feet by 5 feet depicts some scenes from the early days in the leather industry in the Leather City. The money from the CPA funding will also be used to restore some old city athletic films dating back to 1932. These films are currently on 16mm film and would be lost to future generations without the restoration efforts made possible by the CPA funding. Some indications exist that the films might be converted to a saleable CD and the funds earned from those sales returned for other preservation efforts by this most active committee under the leadership of Essex Heritage Trustee Emeritus, Bill Power.

St Johns Prep Hoop Squad Heads to TD Garden Tonight

I am going let my personal feelings for St John’s Prep take over here, and offer them congratulations for their trilling one point win over Lynn English earlier this week in a packed Salem High School field House. We also wish them well tonight as they head for the Garden for the next step in the State basketball playoffs. This is the first trip to the TD Garden for the Prep team since the mid 1970’s and they face a very tough task as they play a very talented Central Catholic team from Lawrence. They lost to the Lawrence school earlier this year and a win tonight would be a great step for the mostly undergraduate team from Danvers. This will be a great experience for the young Prep team who most see as a powerhouse next season. At least we can be certain that whatever team wins tonight an Essex County entry will be moving on to the next round.

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Park Service Attendance, Fishing News, Thacher's Island, Local Issues, and the Winter Olympics

TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2010 From Florida

National Park Service National Attendance Figures Announced

Last week, The National Park Service released attendance numbers for the entire Park Service for 2009, and they were quite impressive. In 2009, 10 million more people visited National Parks then in 2008. Those visitation numbers represented nearly a 4% increase over the visitation numbers for 2008. The total visitation numbers just fell a bit short of the all time gain in visitation set in 1987 at 287.2 total visitors. I have not seen the official numbers for Essex County, but information reported recently by the Park Service in Salem and Saugus indicated substantial increases. There were several reasons provided for the increase but the primary reason seems to be the wonderful PBS series produced by Ken Burns, The National Park’s, America’s Best Idea. We certainly expect to see even higher visitation numbers in Salem in 2010 as the Friendship is back in port and in 2010 she will be undergoing sea trails and then later in the year will be sailing in the waters of Salem Sound, as the first trip taking paying customers will be made to and from Gloucester on Labor day weekend.

Impact on Gloucester and Other Fishing Locations in Essex County

This past week a report circulated that a strong Red Tide incursion is likely to effect clam-flats from Maine to Cape Cod. If this prediction becomes a reality this will have a most negative impact on the availability and the cost of clams in 2010, and will have a negative impact on the many wonderful seafood restaurants up and down the Coast of Essex County. The report indicated that this year’s red tide could be worse than the ones in 2005 and in 2008 that seriously impacted the region.

In another issue that hopefully might have a positive effect on Gloucester and the fishing industry in this region, a rally was held in Washington, DC last week protesting the fishing limits that have been imposed on the industry. At the rally fishermen from Maine to Florida gathered in the Nation’s Capital to try to bring attention to decisions that are seriously impacting the ability of many in our region to make a living. Mayor Kirk of Gloucester was one of the speakers at the rally, and in her remarks urged that cod limits imposed on Gloucester fishermen were killing the industry and seriously impacting her community. There were speakers from east coast locations and Baltimore interests were bringing scallop concerns from that region to the rally. One of the elected officials from New York State indicated that it might be time for the regulators to begin to pay more attention to the fishermen and their economic needs rather than the protection of the fish. Lets all hope that this rally will have a positive impact, as certainly the fishing industry in Gloucester needs all the help it can receive.

Award for Thatcher Island Association

Essex Heritage learned last week that the Thatcher Island association has received a wonderful national award. The Island Association has received the Presidential Preserve America Steward award for their work on the island for these many years. The award citation came from the First Lady of the United States, Michele Obama. The citation pointed out the countless volunteer hours that have spent providing over 4000 hours of labor maintaining and restoring the historic assets located on the Island. Essex Heritage has long recognized the importance of the work being done on Thatcher’s island as several Essex Heritage Partnership Grants have been provided to assist in the restoration efforts on the lighthouses and other buildings on the island.

Local Option Taxes Being Considered in Local Communities

In 2009 the State Legislature voted two local option taxes that communities could impose that would increase the taxes paid on hotel/motel rentals and on meals. The tax would allow a local option that would add an additional 2% on hotel/motel rentals and ¾ of 1% on meals. Several local communities have considered these options and in some cases communities have adopted the taxes. The Town of Danvers enacted the hotel/motel tax but rejected the local option on meals. Currently the Cities of Salem and Beverly are considering these options and the debate in the two communities have been intense. The leadership of two local Cities is supporting the tax increases as the opportunity to collect additional revenue to help balance beleaguered municipal budgets are enticing, but the city councils in both Cities are concerned about he effect of the taxes on local residents. At the end of last week, Beverly passed both taxes, and the Salem Council returned the option to committee for additional study. I suspect that there are more discussions still to be held on this matter in Salem.

Preliminary Design on MBTA Garage Presented in Salem

The MBTA recently held a preliminary hearing in Salem to unveil the design for the new commuter rail station that they have committed to build. As expected the city residents who attended the hearing did not universally accept the design. There was general acceptance of the new platform design that would allow easier boarding, but the exterior design and the small waiting area were not well received. Stay tuned for more on this issue as the hearings continue.

Winter Olympics 2010 Completed

I am preparing this portion of today’s BLOG posting just a couple of hours after the USA/Canada Gold Medal hockey match, and the contest was certainly all it was expected to be and more. In fact it seems to me that the entire Olympic games presentation was very well done by the organizers in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and exceeded expectations. The host country did exceptionally well as they won the most gold medals of any participating country, including the two most important medals to them, men’s and woman’s ice hockey. Our country also preformed well leading all countries in total medals won, and did very well in the traditional winter sports like bobsledding and alpine skiing.

Each year I meet up here in Florida with a gentlemen from Nova Scotia, Canada who has become a good friend as we now communicate by e-mail about politics and sports, particularly Ice Hockey, in our two countries all through the year in between our annual visit to Florida. I can only say tonight that Bob Saunders is in a state of euphoria that will likely last well into spring over Team Canada’s stirring overtime win over the USA earlier today. It was a wonderfully played game and it seemed most appropriate that it was decided in overtime. Congratulations Bob, and all other Canadian Hockey fans on the well deserved win, but I suspect that the biggest winner of all was the sport of ice hockey that was on display for the last two weeks and most certainly presented the sport in the best possible light these last 14 days.

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