Editorial: Right direction on North Quabbin

We know that some people driving from the eastern part of the state to the North Quabbin region probably look around appreciatively and think, to paraphrase Dorothy of Oz in her famous quote: “we’re not in Boston anymore.”

The trick is to get visitors to realize that the appeal of the region is more than skin deep.

Those living here are quite familiar with the natural beauty of the region ... the reservoir, the forests and lakes and other waterways.

But residents also know about other kinds of things that can be found here, especially what the different communities have to offer within their town lines.

Fortunately, there’s an effort underway to provide others around the state with the kind of information that makes the Quabbin area more than just a place to drive through. Last year, the state budget included money to help the North Quabbin region market itself and this year, the Legislature has included this money in its spending plan.

This state funding, among other things, has helped with the creation of the North Quabbin Visitors Bureau, to help connect travelers with the region, which spans parts of Franklin and Worcester counties.

“There are really great resources that are under-appreciated in the region,” said David Small, the visitors bureau director. “We’d like to get the information to the people before they get here.”

To that end, an updated brochure has been distributed to 400 locations in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England. The North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce is also intending to launch an interactive website to provide people from outside the area a way of getting information before they head off on their travels, though it is something people will be able to use once they’re here via their telephone and tablets.

Of course, once you’ve gotten people here and off the highway, it’s up to the region to throw out the welcome mat, one that includes providing travelers with places to eat, stay, shop and just have fun. To that end, we agree with Small that nascent plans for a 100-bed hotel and conference center in Athol will be a boost. But that can’t be the only effort.

We would like to think that communities of the region are having a conversation, both individually and with each other, about how they can build upon what they have. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

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