What do you think would most improve the quality of life and bring economic prosperity to Winchendon? Do you have a vision for our community?

It seems that our town has quite a few dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic people working hard on plans, projects and goals. But not everyone seems to see the same bigger picture. I'm not sure all these people are working at cross-purposes; there is room for a lot of different future Winchendons. But it's interesting to see what different people get most fervent about.

At this week's Board of Selectmen meeting, representatives from the Winchendon Economic Development Committee presented their proposal to install giant toys in various places around Central Street and other locations. They see these as representing Toy Town's history, and providing a unique attraction. They want Winchendon to be a "destination spot" for people from Boston, and a place where vacationers heading for summer cottages or ski slopes will stop to see what Winchendon has to offer.

A worthy goal, although I'm not sure giant toys will achieve it. On the other hand, the idea reminds me of several towns with similar installations: Saratoga Springs, New York has life-size fiberglass race horses everywhere, and Bennington, Vermont is awash in realistic, life-sized moose.

I know other folks who also want Winchendon to be a "destination town," but their vision centers more on restaurants and a children's museum down by the water.

My dream? I'd love to bring jobs to Winchendon--toy jobs. I have a fantasy of encouraging toy manufacturers and toy makers to move here. It's not just an idle dream, either--I'm actually working on it. I have no idea if I'll succeed in coaxing a toy maker to migrate, but you, the readers of the Courier, will be the first to know. I'm not only interested in toy-related jobs, of course--any business owner I meet who is looking for a new location will get pitched so hard, they won't know what hit them.

Jobs...a strong tax base...good schools...a healthy environment...affordable, comfortable homes...a supportive social network...vibrant culture...all of these go into making a great community. They're all tied together, so I don't think you can fairly say any of them are the most important. But all of them are very important, and if more than one or two are lacking, the whole community struggles.

I do know we need something--big toys or big toy companies, great restaurants or a good grocery store. There's no reason for us to throw up our hands and leave our town to the whims of fate. We have too many inspired, hard-working people for that.

But I would love to hear your positive suggestions! Email the Courier at editor@winchendoncourier.net and answer this question: what is the one thing that you think would bring the most benefit to our town?

I'll publish the responses in a future edition!

Inanna Arthen