Residents Make Their Voices Heard in Visioning Session For the Future of Dracut
Oct 16, 2017 11:18AM
● By Juli Couture
Phil Thibeau and The Master Plan Committee hosted
the first of many Visioning Sessions at Harmony invoking the citizens of Dracut to weigh in
on how they would like the town to develop in the future. The meeting had about
40 attendees, including the committee, all contributing their ideas on the town’s
“SWOT,” which stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Assistant Director of Economic Development, Jay Donovan, first asked the group to list what they felt Dracut’s strengths are. He wanted to know what they are most proud of and what drew them to and kept them here. Many responded that they enjoy the affordability, with its low housing costs and property taxes. Others mentioned the community as a whole – a vast, suburban town, surrounded by open space, steeped in a rich, farming history of culturally diverse people. Lastly, the convenient locale of the town itself was mentioned. Citizens enjoy the fact that they have close proximity to colleges, hospitals, shopping, state parks and major highways.
There was a ripple of activity as the topic shifted from strengths to weaknesses. Numerous attendees shouted out ‘the schools’ almost immediately, stating they are in dire need of updates and strengthening of their curriculum. Some went so far as to suggest that the Dracut School System, as it stands now, is driving families with school-aged children to move to other cities and towns or citizens are opting to send their children to charter schools in other communities. Other concerns were for safety, including the lack of sidewalks, handicapped accessibility and traffic issues. Another weakness mentioned was the lack of community events or things to do within Dracut to get citizens out and about and meeting one another. Because of this and other contributing factors, some also felt that Dracut suffers from a lack of identity.
The crowd was eager to chime in when asked what
opportunities they felt that Dracut should concentrate on. Many again said we
should try and get the community together for more than just Old Town Day. Suggestions
were made to beef up the parks and rec department and push to make a dog park, to
clean up and restore the town beach, as well as strengthen the maintenance of the
town’s sports parks which included opening the snack shack on a routine basis
during games. Lastly, a point was made that the town seems to lack adequate
media and communication, and that more avenues should open so that all citizens
are informed, well ahead of time, of events, activities and opportunities in
Lastly, citizens were asked what threatened the Town of Dracut and the fruition of its envisioned future. Though many felt crime in general was low, some felt that petty crimes, moving violations and the ongoing opioid crisis were ongoing threats within the community. As far as threats to the future of Dracut, some mentioned that voter interest causing a divide in citizens could create resistance to progress and change. On the other side of the coin some felt that citizens may have unreal expectations in the changes they wish to see.
The tone of the evening, in general, was that the citizens are proud of their safe, friendly, spacious and historical community with a small-town feel. With some updates, mainly face lifts in downtown areas, we can draw in more businesses, jobs and families looking to settle down. However, many felt in order to keep the new citizens, the entire school system needs to be strengthened, updated and brought into competition with surrounding districts. Many wonderful thoughts and ideas were presented during the session, and if you didn’t have a chance to make it down, fear not. The Master Plan Committee has many more of these Visioning Sessions to be held in the future and will always be reaching out to the citizens to hear their thoughts. You can stay informed of when these and other town meetings are held by visiting the town of Dracut’s website here and clicking on the Calendars tab.
What do you feel are the SWOTs of Dracut? Feel free to comment below!