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Residents seek new life for Old South Street

August 19, 2010
How much is .6 of a mile of history worth?

For the people who lived that history, it is invaluable.

Those who would have to pay for it, however, have a limit.

On Monday, a group of citizens from both Sturbridge and Southbridge met with the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen to request assistance in keeping Old South Street — a bisector connecting Wallace Road in Sturbridge to Mashapaug Road in Southbridge through the Westville Lake recreation area — open year round.

Old South Street, also known as the Westville Access Road, was instrumental to life in Shuttleville, a mill village that once stood where Westville Lake is now pooled behind the Army Corps of Engineers' dam. The road officially belongs to the town of Southbridge.

The dam was constructed as part of a major flood plain protection project following the flood of 1955, which effectively marked the end of Shuttleville's existence.

Although the road remained open year round for more than 30 years after the flood-control project was complete, structural issues with a retaining wall — which has since been rebuilt — and mounting maintenance costs resulted in the road being closed to automobile traffic during the winter.

Now, the group of citizens, led by Sturbridge resident John Boniface, are requesting that Old South Street be kept open and maintained 12 months a year.

"People on Wallace Road and Shepard Road use that road a lot," Boniface said Wednesday. "It's a historic road, it should be open year round."

According to Boniface, the road — or a path in a similar location to the road — was used in the 1700s by early settlers traveling from Worcester to points west and back.

Boniface and other locals can remember changes to the landscape through which the road traverses, as they were around for more recent events in the history of Old South Street.

"It's a nice ride," he said. "It's a ride along the river and us old timers that lived here all our lives, we enjoy that ride.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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