I just came back from two weeks in London, a trip my family and I have taken several times. I love all the museums, galleries, and historical sites, but whenever I return, it’s the pedestrian mentality I miss. When we're there, we take public transportation and walk everywhere, which leads us to lunching at family pubs, hanging out at coffee shops, and strolling through the parks. Here at home when the destination is a car trip away, we tend to be in and out and on to the next place. We don’t linger. There’s not that communal feeling sitting alone in our own cars as when we’re shoulder-to-shoulder on the same sidewalks.
This is why I’m excited about Storrs creating a real downtown. We might have to take a car (and use that new parking garage) to get there, but once we’re there, we can linger. We can bump into friends while sitting at one of the sidewalk cafes. We can meet new people hanging out on the green. We can enjoy an even greater sense of community.
That sense of community has been building in several places in Mansfield. I’m lucky to be a part of a wonderful community because my husband works there. However, being employed by or being a student of the university is not a prerequisite to being a part of UConn. As happens every year, there is always a great sense of solidarity rooting for the men’s and women’s basketball teams during March Madness or being one of the tailgaters during the Husky’s football season.
The terrific Mansfield schools also contribute to our sense of community. Our schools have the support of our town and it shows in their student achievements. We can debate the need for new elementary schools, but as it stands now, our small schools foster a wonderful closeness between parents, students, and school professionals.
My son recognizes the terrific librarians who have visited his classroom during the many occasions we enjoy at the . I often run into some folks from town and have gotten to know the friendly faces at the resource desk.
has created many terrific programs for adults and children. It’s a comforting feeling for my son to be able to attend summer camp right here in Storrs, from where most of the counselors hail, rather than having to go to a town unknown to us.
The was an auspicious extension to the Parks and Rec Department. It provides a place for town residents to exercise together, play pick-up basketball games, or learn some new skills. My son loved his birthday pool party we hosted there last month. It provides teenagers with a place to go after school and monthly Family Fun Nights for families to re-connect. I’m sure the Community Center faced some of the same opposition as the Mansfield Downtown Partnership is feeling now. Almost 10 years later, can anyone imagine Mansfield without our Community Center?
The new Storrs Center is the last piece of the puzzle to connect our community. Our town will only be strengthened by us getting to spend a little more time being pedestrians.