Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Great Barrington a gem in need of polishing

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> We love Great Barrington. The town has once again been named one of the best small towns in America by yet another prestigious magazine.

Yes, it's true it is a beautiful place. It has great restaurants, beautiful Lake Mansfield and up to now, wonderful schools which are, after all, one of the reasons why people choose a particular town to raise their families.

Great Barrington has a huge police department to protect us from perceived evil-doers. The Chief comes to town meeting every year asking for the latest in anti-crime technology. This year it was license plate readers, a request that went down in flames. Yes, Great Barrington is great although there are a few small things that one might want to complain about.

For example, if you drive into the town proper you might really want to be very careful about how you park. The geniuses who designed the Main Street parking didn't quite get the engineering right. In fact, if you listen really carefully you can hear popping sounds all over the street as people unavoidably hit the very sharp raised curbs.

In other words, you get flat tires. Kind of makes you want to be in the tire business. The whole situation is made worse by the fact that the same geniuses who created the tire popping danger placed bike paths running the length of Main Street.

Because of the carefully demarcated bike path lines, you are actually forced to get closer to the very curb that will pop your tires. As Festus from Gunsmoke always said, "Don't you see?"

My minor league complaint list continues. For example, the light at the end of the Main Street by the big bridge allows anyone going north on Route 7 to proceed easily. But heaven forbid you want to proceed north on Route 41 where the road divides, you will be forced to sit and wait for the green light for so long that you might actually deliver a baby while you waited. I did pass that on to Jennifer Tabakin, the town manager.

My kids tell me that the town needs a better playground that caters to toddlers. While there are some minor league swings and stuff, they find that they have to go to Housatonic which has an excellent playground.

There is the wonderful Lake Mansfield but it doesn't compare. I don't expect anything to relieve this situation either. After all, the town doesn't really seem to care about spending money on its up-to-now great school system, so why should the curmudgeons who made stupid decisions about funding our schools give kids a good place to play? Don't worry, they'll find an excuse for that, too, all the while assuring us that they are pro-kids.

Then there is the small matter of proceeding under the big bridge that leads from Great Barrington's Hill under the railroad track. What a mess. When you emerge on the town side you are met with an impassable lake if it has rained or a dangerous ice skating rink in the winter where you might fall on your yes-yes-yes.

The Mahaiwe patrons park on the high side of that bridge and some of them are quite old. This is, and has always been, a very bad situation. I'm told that the problem is slated for correction but I'll believe it when I see it.

So no matter where you live, it may be time to write up your town's problems and send them to the editor. Gee, I hope I haven't offended anyone. I guess I just can't help myself.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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