For years Richmond has been invisible to motorists driving along I-95. Instead, the villages of Hope Valley and Wyoming have gotten top billing — the only billing — on highway exit signs that are in the town of Richmond.
Now, however, Richmond’s Town Council is hoping to change the town’s decades of I-95 anonymity by getting the state to change the signs at exits 3A and 3B, which deliver drivers to Route 138.
And it should.
But the council went about it in the wrong way.
Hope Valley is in Hopkinton and it’s home to longtime retail businesses. Route 3 in that area of Hopkinton is also part of Route 138 and more importantly, that section of Route 3/138 is also called Main Street, Hope Valley.
Richmond officials went directly to the state Department of Transportation with a request to remove Hope Valley and Wyoming from the signs and to replace them with Richmond.
And the Hopkinton councilors read about their neighbors’ request in the newspaper. Not a very neighborly, small town approach.
So Hopkinton councilors treated their neighbors the way their neighbors treated them. They fired off a letter to the state DOT asking that the Wyoming and Hope Valley names remain on the signs, and agency officials indicated there would be no changes unless both towns agreed to them. And that introduced reason to the equation. Richmond should have approached Hopkinton at the beginning.
Some of this goes to the parochial nature of small New England towns and the bragging rights and pride exuded by those who dwell in the villages within those towns. For reasons of keeping their place in history alive they deserve recognition as quaint, one-time centers of the larger region around them.
From Hopkinton City — a rural intersection today — to Stonington Borough and the Wequetequock section of Stonington, this area and all of New England is filled with villages and hamlets that some take more seriously than others. In extreme cases, unhealthy divisions can arise within a town based on these village borders. Think Watch Hill.
Richmond is a town and it deserves to be on an interstate highway exit sign. Town leaders say they feel it’s more appropriate to market a town, rather than a small village, to potential businesses.
The retail centers of Hope Valley and Wyoming can stay on the signs and should take secondary billing.
We don’t advocate signs that resemble some of the highway signs you see in large cities where drivers are expected read a small novel at 65 miles an hour. But in this case, there’s room for the town that the outside world refers to and the beloved villages that the locals know and love.