Memory of French River is Not so Sweet  
Thursday, October 7, 2010

A welcome voice from the past called last week to comment on plans for a French River Park behind Webster’s Main Street. The project will cost more than $200,000, according to a Worcester Telegram & Gazette report.

Actually, Barbara (Bazinet) Yeagher-Dalterio, now of Southbridge, was more interested in a comment attributed to Thomas Ryzewski, a retired Bartlett High School science teacher and a board member of the French River Connection, the nonprofit group working with the Webster Office of Community Development on the park.

“When I was a kid, the river was a joke,” Mr. Ryzewski was quoted as saying. “It was a floating cesspool.” Housing and industrial waste violated the waterway constantly.

Ms. Dalterio reminded me that her late father, Dr. Wilfred P. Bazinet, a dentist, Webster Board of Health member, and longtime Webster-Southbridge District clerk of courts, was one of the first people to advocate construction of wastewater plants on the river. Health Board colleagues apparently held the same view, but dentist Bazinet was the most outspoken.

“It stinks,” was Dr. Bazinet’s mid-1930s description of the river. He was once photographed holding his nose in disgust. Although dental clinics for schoolkids were his real passion, improving the condition of the river had his demonstrative support.

The late Norman Ryan, long associated with the Webster-Dudley Fish & Game Association, was another staunch advocate of French River remediation. Bazinet-Ryan, a couple of town engineers, most notably Benjamin Wakefield, and others got a set of plans for a Webster treatment plant, but economics of the time were rough, even moreso than now.

This brings us to the years after World War II. Thoughts and standards in the French River communities changed, but state demands, accompanied by grants and low interest loans, stimulated action, moving construction programs along. While officials and activists contributed to acceptance of indebtedness for extension of sewer lines, it was the old-timers, including Dr. Bazinet, sportsman Ryan and others whose identities have been lost in time, who brought the “stinking river” challenge in the first place.

Dudley Town Accountant Debi Thibaudeau, the talent behind the town of Dudley website, has added a computer generated report — on paper.

The bimonthly publication still reads “Volume 1,” with single numbers, and is available in Town Hall offices.

“Check out all the progress made to the Rail Trail parking lot on Mill Road,” says Ms. Thibaudeau’s Dudley News! “The Dudley Highway Department has been hard at work getting the parking lot ready for the first visitors.”

I checked out the progress report. The lot is to the east of what was once a Quinebaug crossing to the Webster-to-Dudley-to-Southbridge railroad line. A box-like area has been graded and surfaced, and is probably big enough to accommodate eight or so vehicles.

I’d call it the West Dudley part of what was originally planned as a Webster to Dudley through Thompson, Conn., including Quinebaug; back to Dudley and on to Southbridge trail.

Connecticut’s participation in the project seems in a political drift. The Providence & Worcester Railroad sign on the Connecticut side of the Linehouse crossing still says railroad land is for sale. This leaves West Dudley the major section open to use, and everyone there isn’t enthralled with the process. Some dismayed landowners with whom I talked when the project was first proposed are still there.

Dedication of that portion of the rail trail will be held later this month. Although the Massachusetts taking originates in Webster, it’s but a jump shot, starting behind the town wastewater treatment plant and over the French River, to Dudley.

Carl Beane, Fenway Park announcer for the Boston Red Sox, will be master of ceremonies Oct. 30 for the Bartlett High School Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, says John Mrazik, chairman of the Selection Committee.

Mr. Beane was once a featured staffer with radio station WESO. Thirteen athletes and the school’s 1994 championship boys’ track team will be honored at ceremonies in the Raceway Golf Club in Thompson.

The BHS Hall uses a decades approach to recognition, limiting even-year inductions to athletes from different time frames, making every induction program a great event.

The list this year reads Dr. Anthony Wojciechowski, 1932, basketball and baseball; Francis “Hank” Begreen, 1945, football, basketball and baseball; Edwin Stochaj, 1954, football, basketball, baseball; Bruce Ziemski, 1958, golf; Mark Lempicki, 1970, football; Steven Iglowski, 1973, soccer, basketball, baseball; Danielle Norton, 1987, soccer, softball; John Lamontagne, 1988, football, baseball; Alex Ampontauh, 1995, cross country and track; Jason Bielik, 1995, tennis; Kathy Neff Phillips, 1995, soccer, basketball, tennis; and contributors Edward S. Kunkel and Robert Pepka.

-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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