I am a freelance photojournalist and served on official committees studying the disposition of the former Bridge Street School Building and property beginning in 2005.
The debate on whether or not to enhance a prized parcel of Town-owned real estate ended on October 8, 2015 when residents passed a binding referendum. To those who continue insisting that a Community Center is a “Want to have” and not a “Need to have,” there are some important factors to consider:
1. People living in towns with Community Recreation Centers recognize these facilities are a core component in creating stronger bonds and sense of community.
2. Parks and Recreation services are often cited as one of the most significant factors in surveys that assess community quality of life.
3. A Texas A&M review of 25 national studies concluded that Community Centers, particularly those with a recreation park, are cited as one of the top three reasons that attract business and foster economic growth.
4. An ongoing study by the Trust of Public Land shows that over the past decade, voter approval rates for bond measures to invest in parks and Community Centers exceed 75%. Clearly, the majority of the public view this as an essential priority for government spending.
5. Quality of life issues where early childhood education, youth recreation and mentoring, plus opportunities for creative self expression – the pursuits of health and happiness, are a necessity that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Youngsters, students, their families, and people of all ages coming together for activity, generate a wave of renaissance in towns and cities for well being.
For 12 years, Suffield residents have repeatedly called for making use of this Town asset. They overwhelmingly voted to NOT sell off the building and property to commercial or private interests.
No expense was spared in its construction. The building served as a school and community center for 80 years. Architectural surveys have pronounced it structurally sound. It is an “historic treasure”, but its importance is more than structural integrity. The building and property are one of our Town’s “good bones” and it gives Suffield an enduring point of civic reference. The Town’s story will be carried on in it for more generations when what the people of Suffield have legally resolved to do is carried out.
Town governments don’t build thriving communities – the residents do.