1,000 places to go; State has destinations galore.


Byline: George Barnes

Looking down through the spectacular tumble of rocks that define Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, it is easy to understand why hikers, rock climbers and photographers see it as a little piece of heaven.

The 1,300-acre property is intimidating and approachable at the same time - a place of natural curiosity for the thousands of visitors who walk through it just about every sunny weekend day, spring, summer and fall.

Suggesting it should be included as one of the state's 1,000 greatest places seems redundant. It is easily among the most visually interesting places in Central Massachusetts, and probably among the top attractions in the state. There are caves, crevasses, rock walls up to 70-feet high, a large rock perfect for sliding down and a brand-new playground for the young kids.

"I work here and I think this is a pretty incredible place," said Renee Weihn, supervisor of the park for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation as she walked through the chasm, picking up litter left by the nearly 5,000 visitors who took advantage of last weekend's sunny spring weather to explore the natural treasure. "I love coming to work every day."

It is debated whether the chasm, which is filled with sharp-edged boulders hikers must work their way around, was caused by runoff from a glacier or if it is an earthquake fault, but Ms. Weihn says there is little debate that it is one of the state's natural gems.

In 2009, Gov. Deval L. Patrick signed into law legislation creating a special commission to identify the 1,000 greatest places in Massachusetts. Recently the state Legislature gave the commission more time to continue to solicit as many great places as possible and then sort through the list to decide what most deserves to be among the 1,000 greatest places.

The challenge to the commission seems daunting. It means commission members need to find the equivalent of three places per community in the state, but Eric Turkington of Falmouth, chairman of the commission, said finding enough that qualify will not be a problem. The commission has already received 4,500 suggestions through the state Office of Travel and Tourism's Web site. The challenge will be deciding the best 1,000.

Mr. Turkington said a few years ago when he was chairman of the House of Representatives Tourism, Arts and Cultural Committee, the committee found there were an incredible number of spectacular properties in the state.

"These were places we didn't know...

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