Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind”
— “Signs,” Less Emmerson, Five Man Electrical Band, 1971
New England is a beautiful place to live.
And we’re not just talking about the beaches of Cape Cod, the rocky shore of Maine or the majestic White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We’re talking about our own backyard.
Take a look around. Photos of Lake Pearl in Wrentham, the Baptist Common in North Attleboro and the Wheaton College campus could make for beautiful postcards.
Outsiders recognize it. When the networks visit Foxboro for a Patriots game, they often include images of the picturesque downtown common or colorful autumn leaves reflecting off the water of the Neponset Reservoir.
Even taking a ride along Interstates 95 or 495 on a sunny late fall day will dazzle your eyes with the spectacular foliage on rolling hills.
So why would we want to block the view with lighted billboards?
The answer, of course, is money.
As today’s front-page story by reporter Stephen Peterson explains, half a dozen area communities have proposals to erect digital billboards, bright video screens that are just smaller versions of what fans at Gillette Stadium might see.
A sign overlooking I-95 in Foxboro would yield the town an estimated $50,000 in annual revenue each of the next 20 years while Norton has received $300,000 for a billboard visible from I-495.
That’s a sizable amount of cash that can be generated without hitting up taxpayers. And we also appreciate local officials’ efforts to mitigate the harsh lighting the billboards can project into residential neighborhoods.
But are they really worth the price? Not to the group Scenic America, which campaigns to end the eyesores that fill the nation’s landscape.
“The biggest threat now facing America’s communities and highways is the proliferation of digital billboards,” Scenic America says.
We’re not sure digital billboards are the “biggest threat” looming over us but we do agree when the group says, “These huge TVs-on-a-stick distract drivers, throw off huge amounts of light into neighboring homes and the night sky, and constitute a magnified blight on the landscape.”
“Throughout the country, our most cherished scenic resources and hometown assets are being obscured by a blizzard of monstrous billboards, badly sited telecommunications towers, a tangle of overhead lines, and a hodgepodge of visual clutter,” Scenic America also says. “... America’s beauty and community character are being obliterated by a steel curtain of visual spam.”
One of the reasons for choosing New England as your home is for the aesthetics.
Billboards are a scar on the landscape and only detract from the region’s natural assets.
We’re hoping local communities will say “no” to the money and retain what makes this area a beautiful place to live.