Local Government and Politics, News

Swampscott holds first town idea exchange

SWAMPSCOTT — The town’s first idea exchange had the high school packed with residents eager to share their visions for Swampscott early Saturday morning.

No matter how big or small, town officials wanted their residents’ ideas heard. The daylong event had break-out groups, with two volunteer facilitators each, that focused on ideas for seniors; beautification, culture, and recreation; children; town services, finances, and taxes; and the waterfront areas.

“You know it’s a great turnout when someone comes up to you and complains there was no parking,” said Board of Selectmen Chair Peter Spellios.

Some of the most echoed ideas included a recreational center where kids can hang out; bringing back the town’s “Welcome” sign; helping seniors learn how to work a computer; bathrooms, showers, and concession stands at the beaches; and finding ways to get kids more active while spending less time on their digital screens.

“It was really an inspired idea to get people to come in and engage in conversations and voice what they want the town to be,” said Jackie Kinney, Co-President of Reach Arts.

Kinney is the perfect example of sharing an idea with town officials and consistently working with them to get it implemented. The town’s community arts center would not be around today if Kinney and her Board of Trustees did not follow through with their vision, said Spellios.

Many residents in attendance at the idea exchange shared the same passion for discussing their visions for the future of Swampscott. During one of the breakout discussion groups for seniors, residents expressed their dislike of feeling isolated and wanting more accessible transportation.

Town resident Elizabeth McDonnell suggested implementing free senior transportation into Boston so people can get to their medical appointments and another said he would love to see free or low-cost shuttles connecting residents to Humphrey Street shops and the Vinnin Square plaza.

“A lot of people that need to go to those hospitals in Boston are in this area,” said McDonnell.

Those involved in the beautification, culture, and recreation discussions shared major interests in finding ways to lower commercial property rent so their favorite retail stores can afford to stick around. Other resident suggestions included pop-up events at the beaches, more visitor accommodations, given Swampscott used to be a town full of beachfront hotels, and a community pool.

Discussions surrounding town services, finances, and taxes included the desire for a second Town Meeting every fall, improvement for the town website, and unclogging the thruway traffic of surrounding communities.

“We are also in desperate need of another elementary school,” said Martha Raymond of the School Building Committee.

When it came to ideas on the town’s waterfront, climate change was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Residents also suggested organized beach clean-ups and public grills for community picnics. One resident was passionate about implementing ways to attract leisure boats.

“They all tend to go to Marblehead,” said Swampscott resident Eric Ganezer. “How can we bring those boats to Swampscott?”

The town’s youngest residents envision a rec center, their own hockey rink, and volleyball nets on the beaches during summertime. Their parents would love for the town to implement service-oriented efforts and organized hikes and obstacle courses so they spend less time on their digital devices.

Town officials will spend the next few weeks going through the many ideas shared by Swampscott residents. Spellios said they will reach out to residents in the near future about the next steps.

“This was gas for our engine on what we can do next for the town,” said Spellios.

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