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So long, 2011

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

As 2011 draws to a close, it is inevitable that there be reflection on the unique occurrences that gave the year its identity. In so pondering, it is impossible to ignore the effects of extreme weather events that plagued the Northwest Corner, and indeed the entire Northeast, during this past year.

First, there were the heavier and more frequent than usual snowstorms of early 2011, leading into the June 9 storm of high winds, rain and hail that brought down trees, limbs and caused widespread power outages. The unusual East Coast earthquake of Aug. 23, originating in Virginia, was felt by many in the Tri-state region. Then, on Aug. 28, first Hurricane and subsequently Tropical Storm Irene blasted up the Atlantic coastline, wreaking havoc with heavy rain, wind and flooding, even though its effects were not as strong as feared in New York City. There were power outages associated with Irene as well.

But nothing could have prepared the populace for Winter Storm Alfred on Oct. 29, which brought from 15 to more than 20 inches of heavy, wet snow to the Tri-state region, collapsing leaf-laden trees and branches that ripped down miles of electrical wires as they fell. Many were without power in the Northwest Corner for more than seven days, bringing the economy to a standstill and giving residents a taste of 19th-century living. It’s been of some relief to see CL&P contractors out on the roads trimming trees and branches back from the wires that are so necessary to keep the region functioning in the 21st century.

Even with the challenges that came with such intense weather, however, each town in the Northwest Corner found ways to cope, and even make improvements.

In Cornwall, the Lower River Road bridge, destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene, was replaced in record time before the winter frost set in. This was truly a remarkable feat of efficiency and professionalism on the part of the town, state and federal officials and the contractor. Plans for Bonney Brook, the town’s first senior housing, were approved, and the town became even more green with a contract for free solar panel installations and a third-place finish in a statewide recycling contest.

In Salisbury, the Salisbury Winter Sports Association took on the seemingly impossible mission of funding and building a new ski jump to accommodate the Junior Olympics, as well as the annual Jumpfest, in the very short time frame of about a year. The sparkling new jump was completed in time for the February events, with much of the $800,000 goal donated by supporters of the cause. The success of this project will affect the character of the town and the region for years to come.

In North Canaan, the Canaan Fire Company celebrated its 100th anniversary and BD marked its 50 years in town with a visit from the governor. Canaan Union Station funding cleared, with the process fast-tracked to allow the rebuilding project to be finished and soon, while Mountainside rehabilitation center received permit approval to expand.

North Canaan, Kent and Falls Village were grouped into the 64th District through redistricting for the 2012 election cycle, creating a logical unit of Northwest Corner towns for a united front in the state Legislature.

Falls Village residents succeeded in preventing the erection of a cell tower in an area they deemed an unsuitable site. Both Falls Village and Kent continued to experience significant town center success, with Main Street businesses drawing more visitors to not only these towns, but to the region, to appreciate the charms of country life. Kent was for the second time voted the top New England fall foliage town by Yankee Magazine. And, the Kent Volunteer Fire Department marked its 100th anniversary.

The Sharon Historical Society also celebrated its centennial. Sharon’s shopping center gained new life with the newer stores helping more established businesses keep people coming back to town again and again. These towns have come through what is hoped to have been the worst of the recession, with viable local businesses still operating and some apparently even prospering.

There will be new challenges to face in the year to come, but that should not daunt the good people of the Northwest Corner. Here’s to a fulfilling new year for all in 2012.