Promoting positive growth in Wilton

WILTON – The office of the Main Street Association is in the Wilton Falls Building with a grand view of the Souhegan River. Elizabeth Arsenault considers that view one of the perks of her new job as Main Street Association director.

“I love the office,” she said Wednesday, about two weeks into her new job. “I love the view, it is so wonderful. And I can see the train go by.”

Arsenault, who lives on Curtis Farm Road and goes by “Beth,” assumed her new duties on Oct. 1, accepting the reins of the organization from Judy Leeds of Brookline who had held the post for about four years.

“I want to make this office conducive to having people come in and talk, have a cup of coffee,” she said. “Everyone (I’ve talked to) has great ideas. It is a matter of getting people together to find the best solutions.”

Arsenault comes well equipped for the job.

She is a 1973 graduate of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury with a bachelor’s degree in education.

“But there weren’t enough teaching jobs, so I went into banking,” she said. “I got my community experience working for small banks who were interested in their communities. I got involved in many civic organizations. I really enjoyed the community service.”

Those many years of public service in New Milford, Conn., include 10 years with the city’s Commission on Aging, work on the zoning commission, serving on the board of directors of United Way as past president of the New Milford Rotary Club, and with a Chamber of Commerce committee that ran Village Fair Days.

She left Connecticut, she said, because “now banks are pulling back, and it wasn’t fun anymore. Family brought me here. I want to do things now that I enjoy.”

She’s got family all over the area with a daughter and grandchildren in Nashua, her mother is in Peterborough, and her grandmother, Elizabeth Raymond, lives in Lyndeborough. “I didn’t know much about Wilton,” she said, even though it is where Raymond grew up. “I listen to my grandmother talk about how (Wilton) was.”

She has a few goals for the Main Street Program.

“I want to see a nice thriving Main Street, but I don’t want to see Wal-Mart or McDonald’s. There are so many artistic people in the area. I love the Town Hall Theatre.”

Next year, the engineering will begin for the renovation of Main Street through a state transportation grant. That project will involve new sidewalks, repaving of the street, and the placing of conduits under the sidewalk for future relocation of overhead utility wires.

Recognizing that the year-long reconstruction in 2006 will cause a lot of problems for local merchants, a seminar has been scheduled for Nov. 8 and 9, “Preparing for Construction,” conducted by state consultants.

“I think we have a lot ahead of us,” Arsenault said. “There is about a year’s worth of engineering to do to get those conduits underground.”

The plan, however, will leave “The Dummy” intact, perhaps refurbished and restored, but still guiding traffic around the northern end of Main Street and the intersection with Forest Street and Burns Hill Road. The southern end of the street, by the post office, where drivers reverse direction, will also get some attention.

And then there is the Souhegan River. Like many people before her, Arsenault can see the potential of the riverbank behind the Main Street stores, a resource lauded by a visiting national Main Street team several years ago. It is a lovely place along the river, with large trees and great views and a variety of wildlife, including river otters and great blue herons.

Finances and liability concerns have kept a plan for a river walk on hold.

“Someday,” Arsenault said.