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Letter to the Editor: Chelsea Planning For Its Future

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2018-04-26

Letter to the editor as seen in the Randolph Herald: https://www.ourherald.com/articles/chelsea-planning-for-its-future/

Articles in the Herald earlier this year talked about Chelsea residents’ concerns about the future of our beautiful little town with the closing of several key businesses: the restaurant, the pizza place, the largest grocery store, the latter two taking with them the only gas pumps in town.

Will’s Store stepped in to fill much of the gap left by Flanders’ Store closing, expanding the types of groceries offered and bringing in more meats and vegetables, but still, how could we continue to feel positive about our village if we couldn’t even get gas here?

Apparently towns, like people, may find hope and creativity within themselves at the very moment when everything seems lost. With two lively town potlucks this winter followed by a mobbed chili cookoff; numerous well-attended library-sponsored events; a newly established non-profit, the First Branch Collaborative; a Barn Quilt project underway; the first annual Arts on the Green Market & Festival planned for August 25; news that one of the gas stations will reopen sometime over the summer; and on Saturday, April 21, a well-attended meeting to start planning a community grocery, it appears that Chelsea, like the weather, is emerging into warmth and light after a period of prolonged cold.

Since moving back to Chelsea in 2009 I’ve been involved with three groups that have looked at possibilities for a new store. We even gave out a survey at town meeting in 2015 to which we received 190 thoughtful responses. (The results of this survey will be made available at some point during this new store-planning process.)

It is obvious to me now that the main thing we were missing was involving the whole community early on. After a slow start last Saturday when it looked like the sixty or so people gathered might all just stare at each other for an hour, the community grocery discussion got going and flowed along, looking at challenges, opportunities, and people’s visions for a new community grocery.

Planning something like this is a huge undertaking. You need the excitement, momentum, and mix of ideas that are only possible when you involve all the people who will benefit from the project.

You need to know that all are working toward something that is actually what people want and will use.

And you need the cautious, bottom line focused people to work alongside the dreamers so they come up with a plan that inspires yet actually works.

This time around we also have the help of the two agencies mentioned above. They are very clear that they are only acting as a resource for us, that all the ideas and the plan need to come from us. When we have a clear idea of what we want they will be able to lead us to people and resources who can help with hammering out the financial, logistical, and organizational details.

The next meeting to move ahead with planning a store will be on May 22 at the Chelsea Town Hall. We are hoping to get the word out to a larger number of people this time as we are aware that many people who would have liked to be there didn’t know the meeting was happening.

If you want to be on the phone tree we are developing please call Wendy at 685-2287 and leave your name and phone number. If you want to be included on the email list please write to firstbranchcollaborative@gmail.com. People from neighboring towns are also welcome to join us!

Wendy Forbes
Chelsea