For the Town of Bourne, and in particular the village of Buzzards Bay, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is a double-edged sword.
On the plus side, the highly rated educational institution helps enliven the village for much of the year and bestows distinction on its host community. The annual departure and return of the academy’s training ship, the Kennedy, is a major Cape event.
On the not-so-plus side, the academy has a growing appetite for parking places in the village, one that has implications for the town’s property tax base, a matter that has prompted worries among the Bourne selectmen.
There’s also continuing friction with some of its residential neighbors on Taylor’s Point. The latest episodes concern the plan to convert the Beachmoor Inn property to dormitory housing, and what a number of residents see as a quiet absorption by the academy of a longtime section of public beach.
Across the United States, town/gown relations routinely are visited by tensions and occasional conflict, so the presence of both is no surprise in Mass Maritime’s relationship with the village and the town, especially given the institution’s large presence in a small community.
So here’s a proactive step to consider: a big, informal get-together between Bourne and Mass Maritime officials, staffers and residents to discuss not only flashpoints between the two entities, but also how they can work together to minimize conflicts.
The community and the academy also could use the gathering as an opportunity to brainstorm ways to pool resources for mutual benefit.
Perhaps the most positive outcome would be the chance for academy and community people to break down barriers and get to know each other as people. That, in turn, can foster better understanding, and possibly help take the edge off conflicts before they even occur.
Coffee, soda, cake and chips in a convivial setting are by no means a guarantee that peace will break out between the academy and the community in all matters going forward.
But there’s something to be said for kicking ideas around before they’re formalized into specific proposals going before regulatory boards.
Beyond that, there’s the value of putting together a shared vision of how the academy and the community can best live together in the real world.