"Sharp, quirky, and occasionally nettlesome", Walking the Berkshires is my personal blog, an eclectic weaving of human narrative, natural history, and other personal passions with the Berkshire and Litchfield Hills as both its backdrop and point of departure. I am interested in how land and people, past and present manifest in the broader landscape and social fabric of our communities. The opinions I express here are mine alone. Never had ads, never will.
Once again, the people have spoken. And once again, the citizens of Wareham, Massachusetts at their October TownMeeting have voted in numbers far exceeding the required 2/3 majority to use their Community Preservation Act funds to purchase a conservation interest in our family's "Windrock". And on a night when it is blowing a gale and rattling the casements of this old house, I finally can exhale. This was the big hurdle set before us by the selectmen when they declined to sign off on our Conservation Restriction last June, so now it goes back to them for their formal endorsement. After that, it is a matter of settting a closing date and other due diligence, but realistically this could cross the finish line by Thanksgiving, and certainly before the New Year. Yogi Berra be my guru, cause it ain't over 'til it's over, but once again it seems the end we have all worked so hard for is coming clearly in view.
The voters of the Town of Wareham met as a deliberative body at 7:00 last night and after 3 tortuous hours managed to complete discussion and vote on the first 10 articles on the Town Warrant. Our's was the 11th, and because the good citizens of Wareham had had enough for a night, they failed to extend the meeting to cover the final two Community Preservation Act articles with the 2/3 majority needed to do so. So instead of riding last night's trend of approving expenditures from this dedicated conservation fund when all other aspects of the Town budget are in smoking ruins, we are the first item to be discussed and voted on tonight.
Faced with driving home in the early morning hours without seeing this through to resolution, I elected instead to work from Windrock today and return to Town Meeting tonight. The house is shut down for the season but warm enough inside not to require any heat. There are dark gray rain clouds out across the bay and the air is cool and still. There isn't much food in the house but I am not hungry. May this day in the place we love grant me patience and clear eyes to see the way forward.
Tonight at its annual Fall Town Meeting, the voters of Wareham, Massachusetts will be asked to once again confirm their desire to see our family's land conserved using a dedicated source of municipal funding. The warrant article "To see if the Town will vote to appropriate from Community Preservation Funds, under the category of open space, $400,000 for the acquisition of a conservation restriction" on 19.55 acres of our property." differs from that which the voters strongly supported last year in that there is no possibility of regaining the state Self-Help Grant money which the Town leaders declined to use to protect our land last June when they unanimously rejected the conservation restriction at the 11th hour. The full $400K, then, falls on the Community Preservation Act Funds of the Town, which can only be used for open space or recreation lands. The money is there. Will the voters be also?
We are the 11th item on the warrant and are not competing with a Red Sox world series game for voter turnout. If it passes once again, then the only obstacle to our concluding this transaction and saving Windrock for future generations is the formal approval of the easement by 3/5 of the Select-board. I will not hazard a guess as to how that might go, but I will be in the audience tonight to see the outcome of the Town vote firsthand. I'd like to drive home in the wee hours tomorrow morning with a big smile on my face. We shall see. Meanwhile the full warrant as it appears before the voters - with the Finance Commitee's faint praise endorsement - is below. I shall refrain from further comment until after the vote:
To see if the Town will vote to appropriate from Community Preservation estimatedannual revenues under the category of Open Space and Recreation, the amount of$400,000 for Phase II of the Great Neck Conservation Project; the acquisition of aconservation restriction with respect to approximately 19.55 (+/-) acres (a plan ofwhich, titled "Plan of Land Showing Conservation Restriction to be Created at GreatNeck Road- Assessor's Map 27, Lots owned by the Barker Family Trust, as described onAssessors Map 27, Parcels 1000 & 1009 in Wareham, Massachusetts (PlymouthCounty)," dated May 30, 2008, prepared for Robert H. Barker, Jr. by J.C. Engineering Inc., is on file with the Town Clerk), being a portion of a 33-acre parcel of land identified as Assessor's Map 27, Lot 1000 and described in deeds recorded with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds in Book 9983, Pages 292 and 294, owned by the Barker Family Trust, such real property to be jointly under the care, custody and control of the Conservation Commission of the Town of Wareham and the Wareham Land Trust, a non-profit organization, and to be managed jointly by said Conservation Commission of the Town of Wareham and the Wareham Land Trust; and further to rescind the Town's vote under Article 26 of the October 2007 Town Meeting appropriating funds and authorizing borrowing for such purposes, or to do or act in any manner relative thereto. Inserted by the Board of Selectmen at the request of the Community Preservation Committee
OCTOBER 27, 2008 FALL TOWN MEETING WARRANT (CONT’D)
The Board of Selectmen Voted: Favorable Action 4-0-0
The Finance Committee Voted: Favorable Action 6-0-1
The intent of this article is to place a Conservation Restriction on 19+ acres which would be jointly under the care and custody of the Conservation Commission of the Town of Wareham and the Wareham Land Trust. The article further seeks to reverse the Town Meeting vote on Article 26 of the October 2007 Town Meeting.
The Finance Committee Recommendation:
The positive aspect of this article is that it would provide limited access to the area along designated paths and preserve it for future generations without development.
The negative aspects of this article is it will provide inadequate parkingspaces and joint control, but not majority control by the Town of Wareham.
Round our house on Hallowe'en, we do things a bit differently. Instead of candy, we lay out a spread of party favors and knick knacks worthy of a 5 and 10 cent store. We are the most popular stop on the the street and sell out after 300 visitors.
We also don't settle for carving just pumpkins. Hubbard squash, though the devil and all to carve, makes a ghoulish jack-o'-lantern. Any gourd will do, like the little ghostly white one that Elias fell for and the great crusty carbuncle of a squash that caught my eye. It looked like that mutant orc Gothmog dreamed up by Peter Jackson and Co. in the Return of the King to lead the foot soldiers of Mordor, hence the hobgoblin that now flashes its warty grin on our front porch.
The smooth skinned varieties lend themselves to engraving. Emily asked for a Tiger, and Tigerhawk, I'm sure, would approve of the result:
The only thing which could have improved the Richard Thompson concert we heard at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, Massachusetts last night would have been if we had also been blessed with tickets for the show he did the night before at the Egg in Albany, a venue where we saw him perform his 1,000 Years of Popular Music repertoire in 2004. This performance was a make up engagement, since he was forced to cancel his shows last April after suffering a scorpion sting on the hand. Thompson acknowledged the incident early on by observing that the investment the audience had made in tickets six months ago was probably the only investment in their portfolios now to have retained any value. With that, we were off to the races.
Richard Thompson makes a guitar skip and sparkle like the prancing imp in his eye. He can induce it to croon and scream with tender regret or burning outrage, with lyrics that alternately lacerate and caress. His virtuoso fretwork is nothing less than jaw dropping. My wife always watches his hands, and said he often had three different picking routines going simultaneously, which another reviewer of Thompson's music confirms here. He can make an acoustic guitar sound like skirling pipes or launch into an arena-worthy rock out.
With more than 40 albums worth of recorded material to draw from, and a willingness to toss in a cover request from time to time, a Richard Thompson solo concert is brimming with familiar and unexpected pleasures. Last night at the Mahaiwe, he lead off with I feel So Good and then played Walking on a Wire, which was the song that set the hook for me back in my 19th year. After that, a new song like Time's Gonna Break You held its own with early gems like The Great Valerio, I Wanna See the Bright Lights Tonight, and Devonside. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, which is for Thompson fans what his song Meet on the Ledge is for Fairport Convention, came earlier in the evening that I expected, and the half dozen or so encores included requests for Valerie, Galway to Graceland and a devastating Shoot out the Lights.
Thompson closed with A Heart Needs a Home, which left me delirous with almost post-coital satisfaction. It was that good. When we stepped out into the rain - we dancing mortals released from the faerie ring - our cheeks hurt from a year's worth of smiling. And I'm-a wait, wait, waiting for the next time...
This rarely happens in my life anymore, but tonight Viv and I have a night out on the town. The sitter is set, there are funds for a good dinner in one of Great Barrington's many fine eating establishments, and at 8:00 p.m. the curtain goes up at the Mahaiwe on Richard Thompson's make up performance for the show he had to cancel back in April after being bitten by a scorpion. Hard to imagine a nicer way to spend the evening.
And anyone who can make a Britney Spears song sound like a classic is a man after my own heart.
Joe Biden was between campaigns when a number of environmental votes came up this year, so fares better according to the LCV:
110th Congress (2007-2008)
110th, 2nd Session (2008)
110th, 1st Session (2007)
109th Congress (2005-2006)
108th Congress (2003-2004)
107th Congress (2001-2002)
106th Congress (1999-2000)
Sarah Palin is not a legislator and so does not get the same scorecard, though it is not not difficult to imagine that she would be rated in the same neighborhood as McCain. The difference between the two, however, is that he fell to the basement for the votes he missed, while her stance on issues of importance to the League of Conservation Voters amounts to sins of commission rather than omission.
Having said all that, I do believe the Governor missed a real opportunity, at right, in not going for the Xena the Warrior Princess look. You can't be a blood-'n-guts barbarian babe of the people in your grandmother's stole. Where's the chainmail? Sheesh!
In Connecticut it is known as the Southwick Jog, that divot chipped from the flat plane of the state's northern boundary with Massachusetts. Also known simply as "the Notch", it is not an accidental artifact of some tipsy surveyor's perambulations, but rather the result of a series of border adjustments dating back to Connecticut's colonial charter, and lingering conflicts that are still able to provoke dispute today.
"The latest dispute over the section of Massachusetts that pierces Connecticut's northern border focuses on proposed fees for use of Congamond Lake. West Suffield residents who live on the lake may have to start paying the town of Southwick, Mass., in the spring under a permitting program for docks and boats.
Officially, the lake is entirely within Massachusetts, but Suffield and Southwick officials disagree on how the shifting water level affects the fee proposal."
The story was quirkie enough to get picked up by the Associated Press, which adds: "Suffield officials say the lake has risen since a 1913 survey, putting its eastern side within Connecticut's borders."
Whether or not 170 Connecticut residents have to pay another state for their dock and boat permits may not seem like a big news story, but New England is a land of small horizons and little towns that fiercely guard their rights to home rule and self determination, especially in contrast to their neighbors. Low density shooting wars erupted along New England's borders with New York in the 1700s and not just where Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys held sway in the Hampshire Grants that in time would become Vermont (and Ethan, let it be remembered, was a local Connecticut boy from the Litchfield Hills before he struck out for the Champlain).
The University of Connecticut's Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) maintains a wonderful on- line collection of historic maps of New England, such as the one from 1811 that appears at the top of the page and most of those which follow. In the early days of colonial cartography, not only the interior features of North America but also its nascent geopolitical boundaries were depicted with less precision and a good deal less accuracy than the folds of the coastline that were so important to get right for navigation.
Compounding the confusion were Colonial charters that granted overlapping territory, and claims which extended far to the west. Connecticut's charter curved in an almost unbroken swath to the Mississippi, which prompted the creation of the state's Western Reserve in Ohio and the establishment of Connecticut settlements in the Wyoming Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania. More closer to home, there were bitter arguments concerning the boundaries with Massachusetts and New York that had their origins with the very early European settlement of those regions. According to a website maintained by the Connecticut State Library;
In 1642 Massachusetts hired two surveyors, Nathaniel Woodward and Solomon Saffery, to survey the boundary between that colony and Connecticut. However, the point they established as the western end of the line was disputed by Connecticut and ultimately found to be eight miles too far south. According to a pamphlet in our vertical file, for the next 60 years, "surveyors hired by either Connecticut or Massachusetts set a number of boundaries favorable to the colony that employed them. The only result of these surveys was increased animosity between the two colonies. Even a joint survey in 1702 did little to settle the affair.
To complicate matters, the citizens of Enfield, Somers, Suffield and Woodstock, unhappy with Massachusetts' high taxes, applied for admission into Connecticut in 1724. These towns claimed they were included within Connecticut's original boundaries and were entitled to return to that state."
Naturally, Massachusetts refused to give them up, but in 1749 Connecticut voted to acquire them. A verbal battle raged for years, reaching crisis proportions. Appeals to England were ignored, since that country was embroiled in the Seven Years' War."
In 1768, Massachusetts laid formal claim to the four towns; however, Connecticut did nothing about the edict and continued to govern them."
Following the Revolutionary War, in 1793, both states appointed Boundary Commissioners to run a straight boundary from Union, Connecticut to the New York state line. In 1797 the Commissioners recommended that a disputed 2.5 square mile tract be awarded to Massachusetts as compensation for its earlier losses of Suffield, Woodstock, Somers, and Enfield to Connecticut. However, it was not until 1804 that Connecticut agreed to yet another compromise that partitioned the 2.5 mile area at Congamond Lakes with Massachusetts receiving 5/8 of the disputed parcel along the west shore and Connecticut receiving the remainder, along the east shore.
I love the fact that the 1794 map at right, above - created when the commissioners were determining how (and ultimately failed) to run a straight line between Massachuseets and Connecticut - identifies the state to the north of "the Land of Steady Habits" as New Hampshire! It also shows the western boundary of Connecticut to the state's advantage during a similar argument with New York that it ulimately had to cede to the Empire State. The Town of Enfield that went to Connecticut under the new boundary agreement was replaced by another Enfield that lay in a Central Massachusetts valley that is now flooded by the waters of the Quabbin Reservoir, and whose remaining high ground was deeded over to neighboring communities.
Geopolitical boundaries often have little relation to ecological ones. And if a tax revolt were to occur in Granby against the tyranny of Southwick, it is not like this has not happened here before. Now where shall we dump the tea?