A dozen years ago, a group of merchants from this area developed an organization known as the Coastal Villages Cooperative to “market the storefront businesses from Tiverton Four Corners to Padanaram.” The intent was to create a marketing concept to provide information for visitors who were unfamiliar with the area and were interested in day trips or weekend visits.
The coastal areas of Tiverton, Little Compton, Westport, and Dartmouth all share a unique, picturesque, and physical landscape of antique houses, colonial-era villages, church steeples, general stores, mill ponds, stone walls, salt marshes, and rural pastures rolling down to the sea or rivers. Although bisected by two states, a visitor from afar would perceive this area as a single community.
Being divided by two states, however, the identity of this area has been different for each state, thus creating a situation where there is no name for the common geographic area shared by each community. Rhode Islanders consider Tiverton and Little Compton to be a part of it’s East Bay while Massachusetts looks at the area as being part of it’s newly coined SouthCoast, an area that stretches from Fall River to Marion along the coast of Buzzard’s Bay. For Bostonians, this area is relatively unknown; the main destinations are generally limited to Cape Cod, the Berkshires, and the other New England States.
To further compound the problem, for Rhode Islanders, the Massachusetts designation of SouthCoast is confusing because Rhode Islanders refer to it’s south coast as South County. And to make things more complicated, for Massachusetts, although the local citizenry have adopted South Coast, the Massachusetts Bureau of Tourism has refused to recognize “South Coast” in its literature for the political reason that it has already divided up Massachusetts into various tourism sectors, and the area along the coast is combined with the inland manufacturing cities of Taunton, Attleboro, and Plymouth – which is called South of Boston/Plymouth and Bristol Counties. Politically, the State doesn’t want to emphasize the coast at the expense of the inland areas.
Although some of our constituents enjoyed the designation of the Coastal Villages, it became apparent, as the name SouthCoast Massachusetts began to be used more frequently, that the name “Coastal Villages” had limitations when viewed as a part of SouthCoast, i.e. the Coastal Villages of SouthCoast …….since there were other villages, such as Marion and Mattapoisett, which were not in the same geographical area and did not have the same rural character.
Accordingly, a group of members met last year to think through the process of what was unique to identify this picturesque area. It became self-evident to everyone that the attraction for all of these communities was the distinctive rural quality of the area with farms running down to the salt marshes and coastal areas. In revisiting the naming process, it was also recalled that an earlier designation for the area was The Heritage Farm Coast, a name introduced by the Westport Rivers Vineyard. The villages, of course, remain an important aspect of the rural character, and we will, in general, to refer to the Coastal Villages of FarmCoast New England.