February 24, 2020

The Olympic touch

By Josh Farnsworth

Yes, I know.

The economics of bringing the Olympics to Boston, who was awarded the official American Olympic Committee bid for the 2024 games, is something to consider. The Boston committee to bring the games to Massachusetts will have until 2017 to make its case prior to the global winner being selected.

And then there is the traffic.


Put down the calculator and step away from that vehicle for a second and consider what this might mean for Central Massachusetts.

There is a chance here to shine a spotlight, not just on our country, but also on our sliver of real estate we occupy in the world. Planning an event this grand will come with plenty of headache-inducing moments, but the potential for attention on our neck of the woods will never be greater.

Shortly after the bid was announced, Worcester Mayor Joe Petty mentioned the possibility of holding the rowing events on Lake Quinsigamond.

I believe Central Massachusetts can do even better. With existing infrastructure and a plan to relieve some of the angst of jamming every event inside of Route 128, I propose we do the following to allow Central Massachusetts to assist in the 2024 Games:

• Basketball at the DCU Center in Worcester. Whatever “Dream Team” might look like nine years from now, chances are they will still draw fairly heavy audiences.

• Archery/shooting at the Nimrod Gun Club in Princeton. They have the targets set up already, anyways.

• Wrestling at the new Recreation Department building in Holden.

• Equestrian in Grafton, as lodging at Tufts will prove quite handy.

• Marathon weaving down Route 190, cutting through Sterling and to the finish line at the Old Stone Church in West Boylston? Yes, please.

• Cycling along the classic Longsjo Classic route in Fitchburg. Whether this event can comeback as a solid annual event, who knows? But what a tribute using the course this would pay.

• Field hockey at Doyle Field in Leominster. One could use the football field adjacently as a secondary soccer site as well.

• Fencing at Worcester Fencing Club. Makes sense, right?

• Golf at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton. It was good enough for Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer 50 years ago.

• Tennis at the Paxton Sports Centre.

• Table tennis at South Lancaster Academy reinforces the collegiate spirit and profile of the region.

• Boxing in a giant ring built in the middle of the Auburn Mall would create quite the scene.

• Rowing along the Blackstone River, with a beginning launch in Millbury. Sorry, Mayor Petty. More history and substance on this body of water.

• Closing ceremonies? I suggest Rutland put on their fireworks display.

The big city can have the Olympic Stadium and plenty of the festivities for opening the 2024 celebration. Heck, use the city to showcase track and field and the shoreline for beach volleyball, as well as some other great events.

So, take a break, Boston. Central Massachusetts has you covered on many of the sports.

I can feel the heat from the torch right now.

See original: 

The Olympic touch

Congress mulls Blackstone historical park plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A plan to establish a national historical park in the Blackstone Valley is going before Congress.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has been pushing the plan for a Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park for years. The Rhode Island Democrat’s office said Wednesday the plan was due for votes in the House and Senate by next week as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The plan would put a new national historical park along the river, which includes several old mill towns and buildings including the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket, the first successful cotton-spinning factory in the United States.

The area is already home to the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which links 24 communities along the Blackstone River from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence.

See original article here:  

Congress mulls Blackstone historical park plan

Massachusetts town jarred by discovery of 3 dead infants in squalid home

Saturday, September 13, 2014 – 3:20pm

A Massachusetts town along the banks of a river was jarred by a gruesome sight this week: three dead infants in a home so squalid, police officers had to search it in hazmat suits.

Little is known about the infants found in Blackstone, including their ages, gender, as well as the causes and manners of their deaths, according to Tim Connolly of the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office.

What’s also unclear is the relationship between them and a woman arrested in connection with their deaths. Law enforcement officials believe Erika Murray may be their mother, according to WBZ in Boston.

Murray, 31, was arraigned Friday on a slew of charges, including concealing an out of wedlock fetal death, two counts of permitting substantial injury to a child, intimidation of a witness, cruelty to an animal and violating an abuse prevention order, according to Connolly.

She has not been charged in the deaths.

Her attorney, Keith Halpern, suggested to WBZ that his client may be mentally ill.

“Who could live in that house who is not seriously mentally ill?” Halpern asked.

The state’s Department of Children and Families removed four children from the home on August 28 after allegations of negligence, spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen said.

Two weeks after that, on September 11, detectives went to investigate, but they had ” to wear hazmat suits because of the deplorable conditions inside the home, which included massive insect infestation, mounds of used diapers and feces,” according to Connolly.

It was there, amid the filth and squalor, that police discovered the infants’ remains.

“It was a long and very difficult day,” said Joseph Early, the Worcester County District Attorney. “And a sad day.”

The state’s removal of the four living children at the home last month was the result of the filing of what’s called a 51A report in Massachusetts, according to Alec Loftus, a spokesman for the state’s office of Health and Human Services.

A 51A can be filed by any citizen with reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. It is not known who filed the report in this case, but Loftus told CNN that “mandatory reporters like police and doctors are required to file when they have cause.”

This was not the first time a 51A had been filed when it came to that home, according to Isaksen. She said such a report was previously received in 2007, but that “it was unsupported and therefore no case was opened.”

For now, Isaksen said DCF has the four children in its care. It is focused on “ensuring (their) safety and well-being and providing them with the proper medical care, support, and services they need,” she said. Connolly said that the family caring for them has no public statement to make at this time.

Murray’s case was adjourned to October 14. Investigators, meanwhile, remain at the scene digging through the squalor.

“Our investigation will continue for quite some time,” Early said.


Originally posted here: 

Massachusetts town jarred by discovery of 3 dead infants in squalid home

Mass. dams ripe for removal, to benefit of fisheries

An intensified focus by the state to remove aging and useless dams, a new law aimed at making it easier to do so, and apparently willing municipal partners have converged to build momentum, said Tim Purinton.

The director of the Division of Ecological Restoration in the state Department of Fish & Game was speaking after the recent removal of the hazardous 84-foot Bartlett Pond Dam in Lancaster.

Mr. Purinton said “we get excited” when public safety challenges are met and nature benefits through a dam removal, which was the case here.

The Lancaster dam, which had been in disrepair, was the first in the state to be completed using funds from a dam and seawall law that Gov. Deval Patrick signed in January 2013. A year later he announced a $116,000 loan for Lancaster, a $240,000 grant for Worcester’s Poor Farm Dam and a $173,199 loan and $6,750 grant for Brookfield’s Saw Mill Pond Dam.

It began with $17 million paid years ago to the state treasury by about eight cities and towns that repaid drinking water project loans.

The fund addresses the growing need to repair dams, coastal flood control structures and inland flood control structures that pose a risk to public health, public safety and key economic centers.

Then-Lancaster administrator Orlando Pacheco said removing the dam saved Lancaster more than $600,000 over the cost of replacing the dam.

Already the Lancaster project has yielded ecological results, Mr. Purinton said.

“Our sister agency, Mass. Wildlife, did some sampling in Lancaster and found that eastern native brook trout were using the restored area of the stream almost immediately after dam removal,” Mr. Purinton said in a recent interview.

Tom Philbin, a legislative analyst for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which was part of a coalition to help get the bill funded, said: If the goal of the state Department of Environmental Protection “is to increase the amount of fluvial fish in a river or stream, we think the best way to get there and to reduce pollutants in rivers and increase the health of rivers is remove dams.”

Mr. Purinton said many dams are owned by municipalities, which are increasingly looking at dam removal as a preferred long-term option to a repair.

The state already has joined about two dozen communities for removals and has 20 to 30 projects underway that are going forward in the next few years, Mr. Purinton said.

The state, he said, had accomplished “a fair amount of projects” on the coast because they tend to have multiple species that benefit from dam removal that require access to the ocean. This rises those projects to the top of ecological priority lists, he said.

But with 3,000 old mill dams no longer serving a useful purpose and that are a potential liability, their removal would have a tremendous benefit for river healthacross the commonwealth, Mr. Purinton said.

Central Massachusetts, he continued, has good cold-water streams that are holding on, but dam density per river mile is one of the highest in the nation.

The Blackstone River was largely an industrial river that was rigorously dammed, and so many dams in the region no longer serve a beneficial purpose and are good candidates for removal, the state official said.

In North Worcester County, at the Athol-Phillipston line, the state completed two dam removal projects in the headwaters of Thousand Acre Brook in January 2013.

The project removed about 300 feet of the primary dam spillway, completely removed a smaller upstream dam, restored five miles of river habitat to native fish and wildlife and relieved Athol of ongoing maintenance costs, officials said.

Douglas A. Walsh, superintendent of public works in Athol, said it was a great project because after the town stopped using it as a water source, the dam was at full storage year-round, and the town could no longer maintain the 130-year-old dam, which was classified a hazard.

Now “it’s a beautiful wetlands in a wildlife area,” Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. Philbin, the MMA analyst, said a dam is one of the biggest impediments to fish reproducing and then flourishing.

Dams raise the water temperature, resulting in pollutants from stormwater runoff being contained in the water body, and reduced amounts of oxygen in the river, which doesn’t allow the river to clean itself.

Mr. Philbin commended the division of ecological restoration because, when breaching is necessary, the agency has learned that this has to be done slowly, resulting in lesser amounts of sediment or pollutants being released. The pollutants can wash down and lead to large fish kills.

Through the efforts of MMA, Mr. Philbin said, the state also banned phosphorous in fertilizer, which he called a top pollutant that can get into rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. This causes enormous growth of algae and plant life, which, when they die, robs oxygen from the water body, also contributing to large fish kills.

Contact Brian Lee at brian.lee@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BleeTG


Mass. dams ripe for removal, to benefit of fisheries