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600 Points of Light in Vicksburg Plan

March 23, 2012 : Nashoba Publishing

A great many people in this area still quake at reminders of the federal base closure and realignment process that shuttered much of Fort Devens in 1996. Even as the dominoes began to fall, and soldiers and their families moved on, questions began about the future of Fort Devens.

Initial talk from MassDevelopment, then the Massachusetts Land Bank, described the new “Devens” as a commercial/industrial zone that would bring jobs and revenue to the towns surrounding it. Then the theme changed to housing and a promise to homebuyers that Devens was a new frontier, the next new town in Massachusetts. Former military housing was renovated and sold to these brave souls willing to embark on an adventure.

From the beginning, it was clear that a significant decision needed to be made: Would Devens stand on its own or would the land taken for Camp Devens nearly a century before be returned to the towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.

Many changes have taken place since then. No-longer-needed buildings have been demolished with industrial/commercial parks built in their place. The remaining military presence has been strengthened, Devens Common has been built, roads have been redirected and utilities updated, regional pacts have provided emergency services, and so much more.

But missing then as now is an agreed-upon objective.

In the 16 years since its closure, these stakeholder towns have held countless discussions about Devens, but to date have failed to reach a consensus on what it is they want. They do know how to say NO, but cannot find an agreeable plan to which they can all say YES.

Let it go.

At first glance, 246 apartments in Devens’ Vicksburg Square may not seem a likely course. But like much in life, it is what you make it.

These homes will provide a new opportunity for people who would like to live in this beautiful community. Young people can start out here, older folks can retire here. Veterans can find a home steeped in military history and families with children can find a green space with unrivaled recreational opportunities.

The exterior majesty of Vicksburg Square can be preserved even as its innards are scraped and polished and made whole again.

We recognize the imbalance of the Devens budget sheet, but Devens has MassDevelopment on the hook. Let this financing agency put its money where its mouth is.

Focus on the human capital this project will bring – 600 people, 600 points of light.

Build the Trinity project, not as THE future of Devens, but as a foundation upon which to build the future. Bring the homes, bring the people and the services will come. There’s plenty of room for even more homes, even more people – the missing components of Devens.

Ayer, Harvard and Shirley have dynamic communities built of centuries-old tapestries rich in history. Each is unique.

Stop trying to construct a Devens in your image. Help Devens build what you have – a town as unique as those that comprise it and as strong as the military history that preceded it.

We urge residents of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley to support the Vicksburg Square project at Special Town Meeting on Wednesday with a YES vote.

© Copyright 2012 Nashoba Publishing.