Try as some around here might to keep our little corner of the world a secret, the darn word keeps getting out. The roadways are crowded from spring through fall with visitors, the Ocean House continues to expand its luxury brand to distant shores, celebrities are spotted from Watch Hill to Mystic, and one of the biggest current celebrities, Taylor Swift, is one of our taxpayers.
Now, “our” Watch Hill is in competition for the title of “America’s Happiest Seaside Town 2014,” a figment of the imagination of the editors at Coastal Living magazine.
We say figment not in a condescending way, but rather in the official way newspapers have to take such concocted contests that some magazines dream up. We get that it’s fun, and we’re not against fun. We’re even promoting the online contest on our Facebook page and we published a story about it Thursday.
It’s just that Watch Hill isn’t a town, as we’re all aware, no matter what the fire district folks think. But beyond that overstatement, we think that whatever notoriety comes along with this contest is just fine. And we bet that even those among us who live to complain about our summer visitors think, deep down, that it would be a pretty cool conversation topic if we won. To those who feel it’s just another avenue to clogging our streets, we ask that they consider history.
Watch Hill was home to steamer docks and trolley stops around the turn of the previous century. “Outsiders” came from far and wide to enjoy summers here. For any Watch Hill residents who think that magazine contests and pop singers and a single five-star resort are putting their backyard on the map, they are mistaken. It’s been on the map for generations and seems to have only shrunk in its ability to host the hordes from the outside. Fires and the Hurricane of 1938 wiped out a community of Ocean Houses and smaller guest cottages that welcomed the crowds from New York and Philly and beyond. But we digress.
Westerly’s village of Watch Hill made it to the list based on criteria from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which breaks down well-being into social, financial, physical and community categories. Other factors like percentage of sunny days, air and water quality, crime ratings, walkability, geographic diversity and editors’ assessments of the locations’ “coastal vibe” were also taken into account, according to our story on the contest.
Watch Hill caught the editors’ notice when it tied for first for best air quality, as well as a first-place tie for lowest crime rate. It also placed in the top 10 for best water quality ... which means of course that Westerly has clean air, great water and a low crime rate. And as for “vibe,” well, Watch Hill may have a “coastal vibe,” but downtown Westerly has a cool “vibe” that would make many small towns envious.
The rankings of the top 10 finalists in the magazine’s contest will be revealed in the July/August issue, and the winner will have a feature spread in that issue. And wouldn’t our merchants love that?
So by all means, vote for Watch Hill’s “coastal vibe” as the best in the nation. You won’t really be making it a town, but you could be helping to give our town an economic shot in the arm. You can vote at coastalliving.com.