The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 11, 2008


Gathering spots can strengthen a town

“A Liveable Carlisle Community may be an unwieldy name for a group, but it describes their goal to foster our sense of community and to encourage residents to plan for the future. One of the questions explored by the participants at their April 5 planning event (see article, page 1) was the need for a central location in which to gather. Do we need a community center? The LCC planning participants identified seniors and teens as two groups who might benefit most from a center, while others would love it if Carlisle had a pub or café. Space is in short supply, and the participants noted the need to use existing structures when possible to save resources. It may be that a combination of public and private, existing and new facilities will be most successful.

One reason it is important to explore many options is that gathering spots naturally ebb and flow in use and popularity. Decades ago, Carlisle’s Grange building was converted from a meeting space to a private residence. Another former gathering spot was the teen drop-in program near the town center. According to articles in the Mosquito archive, it was successful for a couple of years during the 1970s, but attendance dropped off after the staff changed.

Sometimes uses conflict and new spaces are needed. For instance, the Town Hall is used both for municipal business and as a site for Council on Aging and Recreation Department programs. It is incongruous when people coming to do business stumble instead into an exercise class. Usage conflicts became more of an issue at the Carlisle Village Court. When it was built, Edna Sleeper organized a town-wide fund drive to raise the money to build the community room that bears her name. It was intended for the general community and was used for years as a meeting space by many town organizations until the Village Court decided to reserve the facility for seniors.

On the other hand, sometimes existing gathering spots can grow in use and popularity. For example, the Gleason Library is reaching out to middle school students. After school, students can be found using the library computers, relaxing on the front lawn, participating in the TOGA program, or watching films shown on early-release days. A popular spot on summer Saturdays is the Farmers Market held in the parking lot at Kimball’s Farm ice cream stand. Residents value the market as much as a place to chat with friends as to share vegetables. The piazza at Ferns is another new warm-weather gathering spot.

The LCC deserves our thanks for providing a forum for long-term town planning at their event last week. By stitching together many new opportunities for residents to gather, we may strengthen the fabric of our community – and have more fun in the process. ∆

Local is as local does

It used to be that to be “with it,” your bumper sticker ought to have said “Think Globally, Act Locally.” But times have changed and today it should say: “Think Locally, Act Locally.” But, what, you ask, does local mean? That, of course, depends on the commodity and the season. One of the sad realities of living in the Northeast, in a very rural community, is that one can not be too parochial about definitions. So here in Carlisle we ought to subscribe to Humpty Dumpty’s credo that words mean what they do when we say they do. Local should mean “as close to home as possible.”

  All that will be well and good in the summer months when Yankee-land is flushed with fresh produce. The Farmers’ Markets are bountiful and even a few local restaurateurs are featuring locally grown produce on the menu.  But what about now (never mind all winter)? Is it moral/responsible to buy Chilean asparagus, day-neutral strawberries from Louisiana or peppers from Holland (despite their colorful appeal)? What about that carbon footprint? The irony in all of this is that no one I know would ask the same question when shopping for wine or beer. Then it is all about “territotire” (right after affordability). Heck, there aren’t any good malbecs in Massachusetts anyway.

  Local, here in the Northeast, ought to mean that there are certain crops we could do without depending upon seasonality. Perhaps one could forego “fresh” haricot verts and the like in the winter months while focusing on root vegetables, brassicas and cold-season greens. Most of us in Carlisle could do a little growing for ourselves (if only for the edification of our children). Season-extending technology combined with season-lengthening global warming are doing wonders for local agriculture and we could all be taking advantage of that arguably unfortunate trend. If the economy continues to trend down, there may be a rush to re-establish Carlisle’s once-famous poultry economy; the battalion of grazing sheep on Towle and other fields may start to look more like dinner than landscape improvements. If harvesting the deer that are savaging our expensive yards is not a good idea, how about a livestock cooperative so that we would not have to buy lamb from New Zealand?

As we begin to think about a “liveable Carlisle,” let’s also put some thought into those amenities which so many of us take for granted and which might be the most beneficial (if not the most expensive). Save some consideration for the features that might distinguish Carlisle from our rapidly suburbanizing neighbors. Make “rurality” a priority and keep the opportunities for “locally grown” near the top of the agenda. Carlisle has long cherished its image as the hayseed suburb and I would hope that we would not forget our agricultural heritage as some rush to make the town look and feel like every other suburb around Boston. We are fortunate to be blessed with copious amounts of open space and large house lots, many of which could be put to good agricultural use that would mark Carlisle as a leader in footprint reduction and the definer (sorry, W!) of what “local” is really all about.



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