This afternoon, my husband and I had a lovely day out, visiting the “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” exhibit at the Museum of National Heritage in Lexington (which you should most definitely check out before it ends next Sunday), grabbing baked goods in Arlington Heights, getting burgers for lunch at Joe Sent Me and ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Yes, it was a very tasty Saturday.)
We then planned on visiting SomerStreets on our way home, eager to get our dose of fun Somerville community programming after missing the farmer’s market this morning. We saw a bunch of families taking in the jazz concert in Powderhouse Park, and ways down Broadway we saw the annual Family Fun Day at Trum Field drawing a good crowd. But in between?
This was around 3:45. Granted, the event ran from noon until five (flier 1 | flier 2 [.pdf]). But at the time we were there, we saw an extremely small number of people out and about between Trum and Powderhouse. As we walked down the sidewalk and wondered out loud what the deal was, a guy walked past us and snarked, “Your tax dollars at work.” Apparently.
The first Somerstreets event, last month in my neck of the woods in Winter Hill, was an apparent success. But while the programming bookending the SomerStreets area seemed to be going well, the vast, vacant boulevard separating the two hubs was a bit depressing. And the number of police on special details minding the road closures and directing traffic did make me think about how much it was costing to essentially have a giant, empty roadway. I wondered about the effect on area businesses, as well.
I actually like the idea behind SomerStreets a lot:
This program allows residents to explore the City by shutting various streets to promote safe walking, running, biking routes in various locations throughout the City.
But it seemed to both my husband and I that there needed to be more programming happening on the roadway itself, not just at Trum and Powderhouse. Maybe some historical exhibits or talks, representatives from civic and city organizations, biking demos/workshops or local bike shops showing off cool/vintage bikes, local eateries offering samples of their fare, musical performances, dance troupes, street chalking, fitness/health exhibits… the list goes on. Just walking from Powderhouse to Trum, we came up with at least a dozen viable ideas that would have drawn residents to the area and involved local businesses into the event. All we saw was a kiddie choo-choo listlessly ferrying people up and down the blocked-off stretch of road.
Don’t get me wrong. If there’s one thing that Somerville is not short on, it’s amazing civic programming that champions local business and the arts. I applaud the city for the SomerStreets initiative, and encouraging fitness and community pride. I just think this afternoon’s event fell a bit short. Perhaps the planning was rushed or the beautiful day drew people to less urban environs. I hope to see future SomerStreets events — the next one is said to be on July 25 — be great successes.