Published in the July 16, 2018 edition.

WAKEFIELD — A plan to deploy way-finding kiosks as a way to help drive lake-walkers to the downtown area has caused such a stir that the Town Council has placed the matter on its agenda for tonight’s meeting.

The specific bone of contention appears to be the location one of the proposed four kiosks, which would have a digital component. The plan to place it on the edge of the Lower Common, near the corner of Common Street and Lake Avenue has brought out a legion of opponents who maintain that the kiosk will negatively impact the aesthetics of the area.

At their May 30 meeting, The Town Council approved the installation of the kiosks, one of which will have a digital component, as part of the ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown area. The kiosks would offer “way-finding” and other useful information for visitors and residents.

The kiosks will be paid for by Wakefield Main Streets through their private fundraising efforts. Faverman Design has been retained by the town to develop a branding and way-finding program for the town’s business districts.

Two of the free-standing, two-sided kiosks will be located on sidewalks in the Square and would be placed at Main and Water streets and Main and Albion streets. A third two-sided kiosk would be placed near Veterans Field on North Avenue. The digital kiosk would be placed at the southern end of the Lower Common, near the corner of Common Street and Lake Avenue. One side of this kiosk will be digital and have a changeable screen.

The design of the kiosks will incorporate the look of the iconic Bandstand, including a red top that reflects the bandstand’s cupola.

The vote by the Town Council to approve the kiosks at their May 31 meeting was unanimous.

But their June 11 meeting, two local residents, Julie Scott of Main Street and Meg Michaels of Fielding Street, let the Town Council know about their concerns during the public participation portion of the meeting.

Scott pointed out that the digital kiosk would be placed in the middle of one of the most aesthetically attractive and most photographed areas of the town.

“The Common is everyone’s front lawn,” she said. “It is a valuable asset to the community and should be preserved in its current state. The beauty of the town needs to be preserved while at the same time the businesses downtown need to be supported. Without beauty, people will not come and they will not shop at the stores.”

She was also worried about the safety impact and the potential of the digital display to distract drivers. 

“Putting the lit-up digital kiosk just a few feet away from three crosswalks is a public safety issue,” she said. “I know how few cars stop for pedestrians here. Drivers will be distracted by the lit-up kiosk and will take a look. Drivers attention attention should be on the road in front of them and the three crosswalks nearby.”

Scott also questioned the need and effectiveness of a digital kiosk. 

“I have a phone that I walk with when I do the lake,” she said. “I have a map app that shows me the exact same picture of the Lake that will be on the kiosk. I can speak into my phone and ask about restaurants and stores in Wakefield and an up-to-date list rapidly appears. What information will you have on this kiosk that I do not already have instant access to on my phone?”

“Please reconsider the placement of this digital kiosk,” Scott said. “Let’s find another place for it in the business district.”

Meg Michaels of Fielding Street also asked the Town Council to reconsider the placement of the digital kiosk and noted that the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) had not been consulted.

“Gertrude Spaulding (one of the FOLQ founders) would be shocked that an electronic sign has been installed by the Lake,” she said.

Michaels noted that the town rushed to install oversized utility poles at the head of the Lake and later had to take them down after a public outcry.

“Did we learn or are we making the same mistake?” she asked. “People move here for the Lake. Let’s keep it beautiful.”

On June 22, the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt issued the following statement:

“On May 31, the Wakefield Town Council voted to install various informational kiosks on lake parklands, in hopes that it will help bring a higher level of patronage to local businesses in the downtown area. Among the kiosks planned , will be a large electronic lighted kiosk, pictured here. This decision came as a surprise to local citizens and organizations concerned with preserving the natural and historical lake environment.

“The Executive Board of Friends of Lake Quannapowitt is currently asking the Wakefield Town Council to delay the planned installation of informational kiosks near Lake Quannapowitt. FOLQ feels the delay is necessary to provide time for more widespread organizational and community input into the size and placement of the kiosks.

“The Town Council will consider this request by FOLQ at their July 16 meeting. As always, the Town Council meeting, held at WCAT ( at the rear of the high school) is open to the public. FOLQ is hoping that thoughtful conversations can be encouraged in this interim period. Lake Quannapowitt is a defining area of town identity and history. There should be careful consideration prior to making important changes to its environment.”

Tonight’s Town Council meeting gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at the WCAT studios on Hemlock Road, behind Wakefield Memorial High School.