Less Than Four Years And Counting
On Dec. 15, Duxbury selectmen appointed 17 citizens to serve on a "Duxbury Friends of Plymouth 400th Committee." The quite correct thinking is that the quadricentenary of the landing of the Mayflower is going to impact Duxbury, where passengers Alden, Brewster, Soule and Standish famously began "summering" in the late 1620s.
If 2020 seems a ways off, it isn't. The arrival of untold numbers of visitors will begin in 2019, less than four years from now and counting by the day. How many will want to see the Alden House, the Standish Monument and Duxbury Beach, as well as the ship captains' houses of a later time – and how they will get here – is not known. The unknown needs to be addressed forthwith.
Traffic and parking are obvious concerns. Can two years of visitors be confined to guided tours and parking somewhere else? Probably not, though tours made enchanting might attract a goodly many. But in a free country citizens use the public roads. In a country presumably still free in 2019, great numbers of Americans and foreign visitors can be expected to want to honor the Pilgrims' dangerous voyage and its highest purposes. The fashion of disparaging the Pilgrims is likely to be answered in great numbers.
An important issue that needs to be looked at right away is if the Myles Standish State Reservation ought to be transferred to control by the Town of Duxbury. Currently, the state spends pittances each year maintaining the Monument and opening it to the public. Could the town do a better job? If so, how would it be organized, and where would the money come from?
The oncoming commemoration would be the fitting time to improve the Monument and possibly to change its governance. The question needs to be addressed immediately because a change would not be a simple thing, and because arguments against it need time to be heard. If in the end no change is feasible there needs to be time to get the state to properly prepare and open the Reservation.
Transportation to and from Boston is a question Duxbury Friends of Plymouth will ignore at Duxbury's peril. Even now, upgrading Route 3 at any of its multiple choke points may not be doable – though that shouldn't be assumed. Filling GATRA buses into Duxbury and rationalizing their schedules should be considered doable and necessary – and not assumed to be a simple matter.
Few noticed, but weekend train service resumed on Dec. 27 on the Old Colony lines to Kingston and Plymouth. (I took the 5:20 from South Station to Kingston on Jan. 4; there were five other passengers in our car and one lone vehicle parked at Kingston Station.)
Richard Prone, a 40-year train engineer, is the leading advocate for the better service that is essential to coming events, great and small. As he has pointed out, restoring weekend trains is a start. Without them the 2020 celebration would be a fiasco. But the confusion of having some trains end in Kingston, others in Plymouth, does not do and certainly will not do in 2020.
Duxbury Clipper columnist Lamont Healy, whom readers know as a devoted student of the Pilgrims' early history, is the 400th Committee's temporary chairman. Most of the other members appointed by selectmen represent established historic interests. An appropriate place to start. But self-starters, whatever their "interest," whatever their personal history in Duxbury, is what the Duxbury Friends of Plymouth 2020 Committee will quickly need if it is to address its challenges effectively. Godspeed.
–D.A. Mittell, Jr.