PEPPERELL — There are folks in town who believe that the economic well-being of the community can be improved with help from the past.
The Economic Development Advisory Committee included heritage marketing and signage as possible ways to bring more people and business to town in a report presented to the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board in late 2014.
“It was very well received,” said Diane Cronin, a member of EDAC and chairwoman of the Historical Commission, during the commission’s meeting on a recent Monday.
Historic reminders around town will help our town sustain itself economically, she said. Instilling a sense of pride ties people into their community and encourages them to shop locally.
The board discussed ways of bringing historic information to the public.
The town has a wealth of old images, many no longer in copyright, that could be made available to businesses to reproduce and use, Cronin said.
First, the commission must find the images, she said.
“Start with the library,” said Commissioner Ron Karr. “There shouldn’t be any issues.” The images that are not copyrighted are publicly owned.
The images could be put on the commission’s website and perhaps be used for fundraising, Cronin said.
Signage was also included in the EDAC report as a way of bringing attention to the town’s historical aspects as part of a marketing plan.
Some signs already exist. The one at the rail trail that cost less than $700 is weathering well, Cronin said, “I haven’t seen any degradation.”
The sign could be used as a prototype for other new signs marking historical sites, she said.
“The whole idea is industrial heritage,” said Karr. With many of the buildings no longer in existence, the industrial heritage could fade from memory.
Between the paper mill, the shoe mill and others, Pepperell was once a beehive of activity, he said. The signs would remind people of what was there in the past.
A sign in the northern part of town where the old village was could be included, said Commissioner Dean Johnson. In addition to a paper mill there was a hatter in that section of town.
That section was also home to the Nissitissit Witch, who, local legends have it, cursed the town.
Privately owned properties could be included, Karr said, “The Hayes Tavern, that’s the most historical tavern in town.” The brick building on Route 119 is not open to the public.
The town has existing signs and memorials, Cronin said. Signage at the Prudence Wright Overlook explains the covered bridge and the Bunker Hill Bench explains the old church and meeting house.
Some of the information could be expanded. “What we really want is to tell stories,” she said.
A kiosk at Railroad Square with images would be “a good feature to have at the rail trail location,” she said. A project like that would go well beyond signage.
She suggested the commission create a document listing landmarks throughout town and prioritize the list. “What are these? Why are they there? Were they always there? What do they mean?” she said.
Some of the landmarks the commissioners suggested involve events and people that are still remembered.
A Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator, Barbara Cooney, once lived in Pepperell, Karr said.
One of the earliest motocross race tracks in the area was also in Pepperell, he said, opening in the late 1960s.
The commission is looking for two more members. Currently three people are seated on the five-member board.
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