Looking to help Mass. 'Hilltowns'

The arts center in Becket, Mass., one of the “Hilltowns’’

The arts center in Becket, Mass., one of the “Hilltowns’’

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

An article by Catherine Tumber in the usually interesting Commonwealth (as in Mass.) Magazine looks at the challenges facing western Massachusetts’s “Hilltowns,’’ which are just east of the Berkshires. Some of the issues raised recall those facing rural and exurban towns in hilly interior western Rhode Island and interior eastern Connecticut. The heavily forested and rocky area includes towns with many poor people, in part because some of these towns – really more like villages -- had mills that have long since closed, and the region’s farms tend to be hardscrabble. Vacationers and rich weekend and summer folks favor the Berkshires themselves.

So Hilltown leaders are banking on such things as tourism, arts, history and, sigh, marijuana cultivation to reenergize their economies and draw more visitors. One thing that many Hilltowners don’t want is cheap-goods store chains such as Dollar General, whose arrival often kills beloved local stores.

As in Rhode Island and Connecticut, counties are generally pretty insignificant in Massachusetts. I wonder if giving some counties more power would give areas with little political clout, such as the Hilltowns, more political pull at state houses.

To read the Commonwealth article, please hit this link.