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Given the demolition of Great Barrington’s streetscape – in the name of a $5.4 million rural renewal project — it may be hard to recall how glorious was the Main Street allée of blooming Bradford pear trees that would herald the arrival of spring.
Robin Curletti, co-owner of Fuel Coffeeshop on Main Street, remembers. And before the remains of pear trees were fed to the wood chipper several weeks ago, she preserved five branches, placing them in buckets of water where they now adorn Fuel’s entryway. They’re thriving. Blooming, and now leafing out.
“When I was a kid, I heard about how upset people were when the previous line of trees were chopped down,” she recalled. “There was one fellow – Shelly Farshaw – he owned a toy and bookshop — who hugged a tree in protest, trying to prevent it from being cut down.”
And if Robin has her way, these pear tree survivors could have a long life. She intends to find a tree in the downtown district to graft them to, so that they will continue to bloom and shower their blossoms — just not on Main Street.
So if you want to see a trace of Barrington of Greatness’s faded glory, the living branches are on display at Fuel.
Actually, it may be good for your health to duck into Fuel – or some other store – to catch your breath. The pavement on half of the main drag has been removed, creating a thoroughfare that hasn’t been dirt in a century – or as dusty. As the air become clouded Tuesday afternoon with dust from passing traffic, people walking the sidewalks were wincing and wiping their eyes.
In response to the construction conditions, Curletti had one answer: With a cup of coffee, you can get earplugs to silence the racket, and she’s stationed a supply of dust masks with a selection of colored markers in a jar by the cash register.
“Design your own dust mask,” reads the tag on the jar.
“It’s important to emphasize the positive,” Curletti advised. “I thank everyone who comes in our shop.”
And when we get to summer’s intense sun and heat – with no shade wherein to take refuge — she can offer sun hats and sunglasses.
But the dust, at least, may soon be less of an irritant.
“We’re told that the street is going to be dug up and paved within two weeks,” she said.
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Blame the Great Barrington Tree Committee.
In a spasm of species profiling, the town’s tree committee designated the two 50-year-old Norway maples that spread their limbs over the lawn in front of Town Hall as “invasive” and to be extirpated, along with the Bradford pears. Never mind that the maples had established roots in the community, you could say.
Workmen sawing into the maples’ limbs explained that the order for their removal had come from Town Hall. But in fact, Barrington powers-that-be were as surprised – and angered – by the trees’ demise as were many passersby who wondered what next the chainsaws would target.
Has the “species purity” movement gotten out of hand, categorizing undesirable plants and animals, even earthworms, as invasive? Next thing you know its adherents will be calling for the elimination of apple trees as an alien species because apples originate in Kazakhstan – where, come to think of it, the Garden of Eden must have once resided.
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Dispatch from the energy front: Are the power companies jacking up electricity rates to blackmail consumers into supporting the construction of a natural gas pipeline? Tracy Wilson, executive director of the Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield, thinks so and reports the following conversation with a WesternMass Electric representative:
“I just got off the phone with a rep because our latest electric bill for an apartment attached to Berkshire Music School went up over 50 percent, even though we had tenants in January 2013, and no tenants in January 2014, thus I’ve turned all thermostats down low. The rep told me that rates had gone up by 58 percent.
“She went on to tell me it’s because natural gas prices have gone up, and if we would allow the pipeline to come through, we’d have more natural gas and prices would come down. So I said ‘You mean we’re being held hostage?” and she said ‘Yes, pretty much’.
“This makes me sick. This is first I’ve heard of the 58 percent rate hike.”
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Ahhh, the good old days, when the general public – even in Great Barrington – enthusiastically and without reserve supported public education, teachers and the programs at Monument Mountain Regional High School.
Six years ago, in the winter of 2009, the Berkshire Hills School District was facing a crisis. The state had unexpectedly reduced its transportation reimbursement, leaving the district no choice but to let some teachers go.
The community, however, came to the rescue, raising thousands of dollars to maintain the district’s academic programs. And they did so, in part, by standing by the side of the Main Street by the Brown Bridge, asking for donations. And people contributed, stopping their cars to hand the volunteers a few dollars – or more.
So whatever happened to that spirit and commitment to our public schools?