Welcome to Belchertown, MA.
 
 
Profile of Belchertown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROFILE

 

OF

 

BELCHERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS

 

JUNE 1986

 

Revised 2004


I.                                 BRIEF HISTORY

 

II.                               GOVERNMENT

 

III.               SCHOOLS

 

IV.              CHURCHES

 

V.              POLICE SERVICES

 

VI.              EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE

 

VII. FIRE SAFETY SERVICE

 

VIII.            RECREATION SERVICES

 

IX.              COMMUNITY TELEVISION SERVICES

 

X.              SENIOR SERVICES – COUNCIL ON AGING

 

XI. QUABBIN RESERVOIR

 

XII. MUSEUM

 

XIII.            LIBRARY

 

XIV.           PICNICKING

 

XV.            DAY CARE

 

XVI.           HIGHER EDUCATION

 

XVII.          MEDICAL SERVICES

 

XVIII.         LEGAL SERVICES

 

XIX.           REAL ESTATE TAXES

 

XX.            DEPT. OF PUBLIC WORKS - HIGHWAYS

 

XXI.                      SHOPPING-SERVICES-BUSINESSES

 

XXII.          FINANCIAL SERVICES

 

XXIII.         BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

 


I.  BRIEF HISTORY

Belchertown is a rare community, rare in its most positive meaning - unusually excellent. It is a combination of history from the earliest white man's intrusion into the Pioneer Valley, through more than 250 years of growth and change to its present status - a pleasant town of visible history, unbothered by the pressures of avid industry and commerce.

It is a quiet residential town; a geographically large town of almost 60 square miles, the second largest in the state. Offices and stores, churches and homes, some dating back more than 200 years, encircle the large five-acre common. Here men mustered and drilled for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

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Originally the area was called Cowle's Spring - a cold water spring still in existence. Usage changed its name to Cold Spring, a place where Boston-Albany coaches stopped for refreshment. The town was known as Cold Spring for many years. In 1761, the town was incorporated and became Belcher's Town in honor of the territorial governor Jonathan Belcher, who also was one of the principle landowners.

Long before the white man came, this wilderness was threaded by a trail, roughly where Bay Road, Main Street, and Cold Spring Road run today, worn by the moccasins of the native American Indian as he went to and fro upon his business of war and chase.

Following literally in the footsteps of the Indian came the white man, journeying back and forth along the Bay Path, as the trail came to be called, from the settlements along the coast to those along the Connecticut River. The present Bay Road from Northampton through Hadley, Amherst, and Belchertown follows this ancient route. The town changed from an agricultural economy to small industries as waterpower was harnessed in the brooks and streams. There are still many remnants of water powered "factories" along Swift River, Jabish Brook and other small streams that powered saw and grist mills, paper, woolen, shoddy and cotton factories. They manufactured such diverse items as silk, cashmere, cotton-wicking, shovels, spokes, plows, organs, cabinet ware, palm leaf hats, cider, cigars and soapstone products.

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Belchertown was famous in the mid 1800s for carriages, sleighs and wagons. Long convoys of carriages were taken south to Virginia, and orders came from as far away as Persia and Australia.

The turn of the century brought a time of gracious country living and the town became a favorite summer resort. Many people came from the big cities to enjoy the numerous hotels and inns.

Belchertown still has farms and orchards dotting the plains and hillsides, small businesses flourish and cater to the needs of today. The desirable aspects of urban living are combined with the atmosphere of country living, and our popular community grows at a rapid pace.

With this very brief look at our history we would like to introduce you to "our community", one of the state's five fastest growing residential communities - fastest growing for a variety of reasons that other new families have already discovered.

II.  GOVERNMENT

Belchertown operates under the selectman form of government with five citizens elected for rotating three-year terms.

Any registered citizen can run for Selectman, or for any of a number of town boards including Planning, School Committee, Assessors, Health; or be appointed to Recreation, Zoning, or Finance Committee to name a few. Citizen participation has always been the backbone of our community and insures that our government is truly responsive to citizen needs.

Open Town Meeting, uniquely New England, occurs annually at the General Town Meeting, and at several other times in the year, as selectmen call the citizens together for Special Town Meetings. All registered voters may attend and participate in the discussion that leads to the passage of our laws.

For day-to-day management, the town employs a Town Administrator to oversee operations and assist citizens with questions or problems.

III.  SCHOOLS

We are especially proud of our school system and with good reason!  Ours is a local school system under the total control of OUR citizens. With the supervision of a professional Superintendent, some 400 teachers, aides, and support staff, many with advanced degrees, teach in classes from preschool/Kindergarten through high school.

The town is also a member town of the Pathfinder Regional Vocational School system, which was opened in new quarters on the town's southern border in Palmer in 1970, offering some of the best technical education available. Many of our Pathfinder students achieve advanced degrees after high school.

Over many years, the townspeople have developed and maintained an excellent physical plant for our educational system. Older school facilities have been phased into town administrative use, including the Superintendent's Office in a building off Maple Street, built in 1922. Cold Spring School, built in 1952, Tadgell School, built in the 1950s, and Swift River School, opening in 1992, are kindergarten and elementary schools.

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Annual Town Meeting in June of 1983 voted to build a new $8 million Intermediate School, which opened in 1986 as Chestnut Hill Community School, and is, in 2004, an upper elementary school.  With strong support from our very active Senior Community, the Town Meeting also voted to include a full size swimming pool and 374-seat auditorium for school and community use. Not to be outdone, the town's Recreation Committee obtained a state recreation grant to develop, along with the school, a complete community recreation facility including a gym, four tennis courts, and soccer, football, and baseball fields

In 1963, the town built a 600-student high school. Totally renovated with Town and Federal dollars in 2004, it now serves as Jabish Brook Middle School -- complete with gym, laboratories, extensive library, Band/music annex (for some 200 students), assembly auditorium, soccer and baseball fields, and full service cafeteria – above par for any middle school.

Belchertown High School, designed to hold 1000 students, opened in 2003 as a $32 million state of the art high school, with the latest in educational technology. A full gym with three basketball courts, upper walking/jogging track, weight rooms, football stadium, two soccer fields, softball and baseball fields and six tennis courts supports the physical health of our residents and students

We take pride in our educational program, too, with good reason. While concentrating on basics and advanced placement throughout our educational program, we have moved progressively to meet the town's growth and expectations for commitment to a high quality education for students, with unstinting town support. For example, computers are used at all levels to augment teaching – including

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elementary. Class ratios average around 1:25. Our High School, our pride, with one of the most advanced computerized systems in Western Massachusetts, including some 450 student personal computers, excels!

More than 75% of our graduates go on to institutions of higher learning, including the Coast Guard-Army-Navy-Air Force Academies, Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Northeastern, MIT, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and, of course, our own University of Massachusetts, to name a few. Our students consistently score high marks on the state's MCAS tests, thanks to the commitment and quality of our teaching staff.

And in instrumental music we are second to none. With programs starting in fifth grade and ending with a high school instrumental music program of over 200 pieces, Belchertown has produced many students who have gone on to excel in music careers.

Our school facilities are excellent thanks to a devoted custodial staff, and, in turn, the respect for the facilities ingrained in our students.

Our school system is important to our community of both young families and senior citizens who share its opportunities. Proud?  You bet we are!

IV.  CHURCHES

No New England community is complete without the inspiring white steeples and the religious centralism at the core of the community. Belchertown is no exception, and our various church groups provide a religious infrastructure that is exceptional for those who would take advantage of the opportunities. A spirit of ecumenism is strong and a sharing spirit provides many joint community activities including the annual Christmas programs, joint summer youth programs, joint Bell Choir, Church Dinners/Breakfasts, and Easter Sunrise Services on Quabbin Hill, to name a few.

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On the Common we find the Methodist, Congregational and Catholic Churches. (St. Francis Catholic Church will be moving to new larger quarters in 2004, off Jabish Street). Off the Common we find Grace Community Chapel on Everett Avenue and Dwight Chapel on Old Federal Street at Rt. 9 towards Amherst, providing non-denominational services.

South Belchertown is also served by churches located in the Bondsville area of Palmer, and some attend services to the west in Granby.

 

V.  POLICE SERVICES

Belchertown employs a full-time professional police force of over 20 officers, plus support staff, giving coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our officers are well respected in the community, particularly for their youth education programs. Their "first response"

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 to emergencies or calls for ssistance is reassuring. Community Policing and community education are goals, and the Community Police Academy, along with Self-Defense programs for women and youth, are well attended. Highly trained, professional and well outfitted as a community service, our police let townspeople rest easy in their safe and secure environment.

In 1998 the Belchertown Police Department moved into its new, state of the art, headquarters building on State Street (Rt. 202) directly across from the entrance to Chestnut Hill School

Belchertown has one of the lowest per capita crime rates in the state, youth problems are minimal in the community and we have, in 2004, a statistical record of decreasing crime.

EMS – EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE

Immediate medical and ambulance service is provided to the community by our well-equipped and professionally trained 24-hour Emergency Medical Response Team. First response for medical emergencies, our two up-to-date ambulances carry all the latest medical support equipment, and provide quick response and fast transport to hospitals in Springfield, Northampton, Ware, and Palmer. The department is housed in its own building at the north end of the Common adjacent to the Fire House.

VII.  FIRE SAFETY SERVICES

Our fire department is a fully equipped volunteer organization, with a radio call system that dispatches men and equipment to the scene of an emergency rapidly. First formed in 1910, our 30 plus member VOLUNTEER group is a cohesive, well-trained unit with considerable pride in its service ability. Professional training is carried out frequently and Town Meeting has assured that its equipment and supplies match the quality of personnel. Ever want to be a firefighter? Opportunity awaits you with this excellent team. Stop in and see our first rate fleet.

The Department is staffed additionally with a full-time Fire Chief administering the department and a full-time Assistant Chief, primarily involved with building inspection and community education. Additional administrative assistance is also provided

The town's new firehouse, built in 1997 on the North end of the Town Common, contains state-of-the-art equipment. The town is a member of the Hampshire County Fire Defense Association with Amherst, Ware, Palmer and other bordering towns.

The former Fire House, dating back to the early 1900s, was moved down the North Main Street hill and now resides on the west side. It was refurbished by the Association and is maintained as a Fire Fighters Museum, containing many early memorabilia

VIII.  RECREATION SERVICES:

Recreation opportunities abound in Belchertown and are almost too numerous to cover in any detail here.

The Town's Recreation Committee, composed of town volunteers, is appointed by the Board of Selectmen and is responsible for town-run recreational activities and sports leagues. There is a full-time paid Director with an administrative staff. Their programs cover six- year-olds through adults. For the younger residents there are baseball,

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soccer, and basketball leagues, swimming programs (this committee operates the indoor pool at Chestnut Hill and a popular sandy town beach on Lake Arcadia, great for young mothers, and an enjoyable picnic area), as well as diverse activity programs in the summer of varying length. Team coaching is provided by parent volunteers.

For adults, there are men's and women's softball, and basketball teams in season, as well as varied activity programs scheduled throughout the year. Indoor winter programs for adults are available.

Facilities operated by the Recreation Committee include the attractive town beach, Old Town Hall indoor recreation facility, Parson's field (soccer, and 2 baseball diamonds), Austin field (adult softball), Chestnut Hill swimming pool, playing fields and tennis courts, wilderness recreation areas and trails. Off-hour use of school recreational facilities including the High School walking track are administered by the Recreation Department.

Hunting & Fishing: The natural state of Belchertown's forests and streams provide close by opportunities for those who would partake of the two traditional sports. Hunting abounds from the cornfields of south Belchertown to the hills and woods of north Belchertown. Historical records indicate that Belchertown has been a hunter's paradise since the 1700's, and one look during deer season, when all the city hunters arrive, indicates that this historical tradition still exists. The Swift River Sportsman's Club has facilities on the Swift River for more formal and organized activities.

Without equivocation, our fishing can't be beat anywhere. Trout fishing in Jabish Brook (Springfield water supply stream) and Bachelor Brook, pond fishing in three major glacial ponds, Swift River outlet to the Quabbin Reservoir, and the largest inland body of water in New England - the Quabbin Reservoir itself - provide all types of fishing in abundance short only of salt water fishing. Peace for man and boy is but a few short steps away. The Charles L. McLaughlin trout hatchery, with its 22 concrete nursery tanks is always a treat for youngsters, and is an important source for stocking of our rivers and streams.  Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

Boating: Limited boating is available (including boat rental) at the Quabbin, and although not all of the Quabbin is open to boating, no place can be more beautiful and enjoyable for the boater or fisherman. The Swift River on Belchertown's west boundary can provide plenty of excitement to the canoeist in the spring, or lazy enjoyment in the mid summer. The Town Beach boat ramp provides access to this glacial pond for casual boaters and is a great place for parents to supervise youngsters learning "the art of navigation"! Some boat rentals are also available here.

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Golf:   Belchertown boasts its own nine-hole public golf course at the Mill Valley Country Club two miles south of the town center on Route 181. A well-established and challenging course for league play or beginner. Season rates are very reasonable; a golf pro is available at the golf shop. A new clubhouse with a limited restaurant and pro shop was rebuilt in 1986 after fire destroyed the original. A second nine holes, projected for completion in 2004, will expand the course to a full 18-hole course.

A second 18-hole private course is being newly built on Route 21 to Ludlow and will contain all the traditional services when finished, along with some 200 condos.

Snowmobiling: The Mill Valley Snowmobile Club maintains snow mobile trails throughout the town and maintains an active schedule throughout the winter months. A very active group year long, they maintain and develop trails all over town. These trails are generally open to the public for walking in the summer. The Club is well respected in town and has done much to maintain and deserve its good reputation. The former B&M right of way, now owned in part by the town and in part privately, welcomes the Club in winter.

Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

Cross-Country Skiing: Opportunities for cross-country skiing abound throughout the town from the many rolling fields south of town to the wooded abandoned hill roads north of town. While not an organized activity, with approval of land owners, skiers are welcomed. The former B&M right of way, now owned in part by the town and in part privately, welcomes the cross-country skier. Additional trails welcoming skiers exist on the former Belchertown State School.

Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

 

Hiking - Walking: Trails go everywhere throughout Belchertown - from the informal hikes over century-old abandoned forest roads passing old cellar holes of a former time, to the more formal facilities of the Appalachian Trail Branch heading from Holland Glen on Route 9 to the White Mountains. The town's nature recreation area off Route 202 north provides a great opportunity for the very young hiker through maintained paths along Jabish Brook.

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Of course, our greatest recreational asset, the Quabbin Reservoir, abounds with hiking opportunity. Formal marked trails include the 1.9-mile Summit Trail, the 1.3-mile Cove Trail, or the 1.8-mile Hanks Place Trail, to name a few. The former B&M right of way, now owned in part by the town and in part privately, welcomes hikers.  Additional trails welcoming hikers or walkers exist on the former Belchertown State School.

Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

Off Road Motorized Wheeled Vehicles: A growing popular recreational pastime, most property owners do not welcome these vehicles on their trails due to the erosion problems they create. Problems created by some irresponsible enthusiasts failing to respect other trail users rights have not encouraged further activity. Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

4-H Programs: Belchertown is a perfect place to enjoy animals and the semi-rural life if you so choose. Most of the town is zoned agricultural and few are the kids who do not have access to a pony, horse, or rabbit - great place for controlled dogs and cats, too. Several active 4-H groups operate in the town and include animal and agricultural activities as well as shows. The Annual Fair is a great place to exhibit your 4H interests

Horsemanship: Three professional riding stables exist in town including the renowned Bobbin Hollow. Joseph's farm in South Belchertown provides excellent opportunities for the experienced and the would-be equestrian. Trails are plentiful off roads and provide interesting historical riding down abandoned old roads with huge maple trees and cellar holes showing all "that is left of a once thriving agricultural community of the 1800s." Generally trails identified for hikers and skiers are open to cross country riding.  Several horse shows are held around town in the summer months for those wishing to compete in more organized competitions, and every parade has its contingent of horsemen and women.

Please respect private property by insuring the owner's approval for public use.

Scouting: Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownies and Cub Scouts are a mainstay of our town parades each Memorial, Fair Day and Veteran's Day. A complete program is available from beginner to Eagle Scouting thanks to a very active and qualified volunteer group. Pinewood Derby brings out great expectations for the Cub Scouts, and perhaps a closer moment between a father and his son.

Theater:  Now dormant, the Carriage Town Players, a community theater group once presented three or four programs a year with up to six performances each. The annual Christmas presentation of "Scrooge" was everyone's favorite and had become another town tradition. Semi professional and non professional talent was drawn from throughout the valley towns as well as our own community group of would-be thespians. Perhaps there will be a revivalist reading this.

Currently the only active groups are students at Chestnut Hill and the High School which do drama presentation as an after-school activity

Summer Concerts on the Commons:  A pleasant sunset on a summer evening finds families gathered on a blanket with a picnic hamper on the Town Common listening to the Community Band. Local talent from ages 8 to 80 pool their talents with musical instruments and present four concerts for the pleasure of our citizens or passers-by. Numbering upwards of 80 souls, these folks get together for several weeks of practice before exhibiting their combined talents

IX.  COMMUNITY TELEVISION

With fiber optic cable, each community has the opportunity to transmit local programming within the community. Belchertown Cable Television (BCTV) transmits on three channels, Government, Education, and Public Access. While start-up efforts in the 1990s were primarily funded by the Town, this totally volunteer organization is now self funded, and brings to the community a wide variety of programs from school sports, activities, and town government meetings.

X.  SENIOR SERVICES – COUNCIL ON AGING

Seniors are a growing population, and an influential group in Belchertown. Town Meeting authorized the building of a new Senior Center, opened in 1999, next to the new Police Station and across from the entrance to Chestnut Hill School.

Probably the swingingest set around, seniors at the Center are the focus of many planned and not so planned activities. Additionally, the Center provides many support services for our elder community members.

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Meals are prepared for those seniors who choose to partake at noontime, and those who are housebound benefit from an extensive Meals On Wheels program. Bus excursions to Theater presentations, a Maine Clambake or a Fall Foliage trip, inter-generational programs, not to mention Red Sox games, add spice to life, and card games, crafts, or new hobbies encourage new friendships at the Center.

"Over 55" has become a popular designation here. Pine Valley Plantation Mobile Home Park, Highland Glenn, and a great deal of new age-restricted housing on the horizon, provide comfortable, companionable, and safe environments for seniors, as does town- developed, moderate-income housing at Mill Hollow and Everett Acres. Others choose to live throughout the town as their fancy takes them.

Many volunteer opportunities exist for our active seniors, from teacher aides (kindergarten through fourth grade), or in recreation programs from teaching others knitting, painting, woodcrafts, coaching or refereeing sports, or just plain reading to younger kids on the Town Common at "story time."

Whether they grew up in Belchertown, or moved here to be nearer their families, Belchertown has a special place in its heart for SENIORS!

XI.  QUABBIN RESERVOIR

Quabbin Reservoir is an astounding example of man's ingenuity in creating a major water supply while preserving natural assets.   It sprawls over 39 square miles of river valley and stores 412 billion gallons of water. Four towns were flooded in the 1930s and some 2500 people living in 650 houses had to find new homes. Some 7500 bodies from cemeteries in the flooded area were relocated to the lovely Quabbin Park Cemetery just over the Belchertown line in Ware.

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It is an environment enjoyed by fishermen, hikers and picnickers under controlled conditions, shared with the beaver, muskrat, deer, turkey, bear, fox, and an occasional golden or bald eagle - even the cougar, believed until recently to be extinct in the East.

Unspoiled forest and hills with a fascinating history, the huge water expanse is unique. And near-by farms and maple sugar production provide a spectacular classroom for our school children and adults. The observation tower on Quabbin Mountain provides breath-taking views and it's all free.  The events of 9/11, however, have placed some restrictions on motor travel in the Park

XII.  MUSEUM

The Stone House Museum on Maple Street was deeded to the Belchertown Historical Association, a voluntary group of townspeople, in 1922. It was built in 1827 of fieldstone and contains one of the finest collections of aesthetic and historical items in the state, and includes an excellent collection of Rogers groups and period furnishings.

The Ford Annex Carriage House was given by Henry Ford and contains numerous period carriages including a stagecoach built in Belchertown.

More recent additions are the town's old print shop and the neighboring Greek Revival style home. An admission fee is charged for non-members.

XIII.   LIBRARY

Clapp Memorial Library was built with a donation from John Francis Clapp and two of his brothers at a cost of $46,000 and opened in 1887. The building, one of Belchertown's most picturesque, is constructed in the form of a Latin cross, with an octagonal tower 68 feet high. It is made out of Longmeadow brownstone, the roof and tower covered with red tile. One of the most unusual and beautiful features of the library is the pair of large stained glass windows at either end.

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The library actively serves the town's needs with its own collection of books, and as a member of the regional library system. From the very young reader to the person with more advanced tastes, the Clapp Memorial Library is a satisfying place to fulfill dreams, read periodicals, or just find peace. Under the ownership of it's Directors, Belchertown's Clapp Library receives funds from the town and private donations, and oversees the operation and staff, and the Friends of the Library help out with fund raisers and activities for the young and the young at heart.

XIV.      PICNICKING

The Town Beach provides for picnics with tables, benches, and grills, and the Quabbin contains picnic facilities scattered throughout its open areas, but no fires are allowed in the Quabbin. The North Belchertown Recreation area, Holland Glen, the Common, and Parsons Field also provide informal picnicking. The new Chestnut Hill Community School has a pavilion, trails, and a picnic area.

 

XV.         DAY CARE

There are two types of day care available to residents in Belchertown:

The Very Young: Of growing concern to young families with working parents is the subject of day care for youngsters. Several avenues are available in town, including parent exchanges, or "care in my home" situations, a part-time community nursery school with professional staff for three- and four-year-olds, to full privately licensed day care facilities.

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The town, through its Selectmen, sought and received a $200,000 grant from the state to build a 3000-square-foot daycare facility at the front of the 43-acre parcel developed for the Chestnut Hill Community School and recreation area. The facility has been leased to a previously existing licensed private non-profit daycare group that has been providing this service for many years. The Belchertown School System has limited application for preschool programs for those needing early educational intervention, and hopes to expand preschool programs as funds are available.

Senior Day Care:  The Belchertown Council on Aging provides, through its Senior Center, Day Care for those in later years who need daily companionship. The Center has a trained staff and enjoyable space for seniors who require on-going attention. This may be in the form of respite care – a breather for a regular care provider for a few hours or days, or daily care from 9 to 3. A modest fee is charged to maintain this service for our seniors.

XVI.  HIGHER EDUCATION

One of Belchertown's greatest resources is its proximity to institutions of higher education. In Amherst, less than ten miles away, the University of Massachusetts offers its vast resources for learning, sports of all types (like hang-gliding!), music and cultural events, political activity and vast library resources, plus an array of Continuing Education short courses (Wine tasting is forever popular).

Also in Amherst is the home of "Lord Jefferys" Amherst College, a smaller private college which offers many interesting activities. Hampshire College in South Amherst provides a unique progressive educational program. At greater distance (under 20 miles), we have Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke Community College, and all the Springfield Colleges. Residents have been known to enroll in degree programs and commute to UConn (1 hour), Westfield State (35 min.), Worcester State and Worcester Poly tech (1 hour), among others.

Within our grasp is almost any type of educational offering desirable, yet we avoid the big college town environment through short commutes (free bus service to Amherst several times each day). Some of the best football in Western Mass. is seen each fall in our neighboring towns

XVII.  MEDICAL SERVICES

Medical and dental services are provided by several sources located at the town's center.

Wing Memorial Hospital has, for a number of years, provided a variety of services. It now has new facilities located on Daniel Shays Hwy (Rt 202 N).

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Bay State Hospital established new full-service facilities in Belchertown in 1998 on Sargent Street.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital has recently opened a practice in the new facility built at the junction of Routes 21 and 202.

Dr. Yih-Ming Hsiao provides excellent "home town doctor" medical services. His brother provides full dental service in their new facility on North Main Street. Dr. Hsiao has also taken over as the school physician for the Belchertown School District.

Dental Services are provided locally by several fine dental groups located along North Main Street, Physical Therapy by Health South on North Main, and Chiropractic services are provided by Dr. Daniel Drewniak in offices located on South Main Street.

Total Gym facilities have opened in the new facility at Routes 21 and 202, as has Curves for Women on Route 9 at the Stop and Shop Plaza.

Hospital Services are located in Ware (Mary Lane Hospital, 10 miles), Palmer (Wing Memorial Hospital, 10 miles), Springfield (Bay State Medical, 20 miles) and Northampton (Cooley Dickinson Hospital, 19 miles). UMass Medical in Worcester is only a short "Life Flight" from the commons.

A full-service optometrist operates on N. Main Street

XVIII.  LEGAL SERVICES

Several well-qualified attorneys maintain offices in Belchertown and provide wide-ranging legal service to the community.

XIX.   TAXES

Of concern to all property owners are Real Estate Taxes. Belchertown depends primarily on residential and business properties to obtain its resources for schools, town services, recreation facilities, and is actively expanding its business base through an aggressive EDIC. With resourceful leadership and active participation of many citizens and our state legislators, we have successfully obtained support and financing from state and federal grants for major facilities such as our new school buildings, as well as for day care facilities, sewer and water expansion, and road construction.

Considering the high quality of town services, we are proud that our tax rate in 2004 is relatively low, currently less than $16.75 per thousand.  Proposition 2 prevents any tax increase (greater than an increase of .025% per year from the previous year's levy) without a 2/3 vote of approval at annual town meeting. The decision to raise taxes in the future, therefore, is in the hands of the citizens.

XX.  DEPT. OF PUBLIC WORKS - HIGHWAYS

The Town of Belchertown has, due to its large land mass, more highway miles to maintain than other comparable communities in the area, yet our roads are better maintained than most. The town has an up-to-date fleet of machinery as well as a Highway Garage built in 1976, and our highway department employees are justifiably proud of their service record.

XXI.  SHOPPING - SERVICES - BUSINESSES

Belchertown boasts a variety of commercial stores, services and businesses far too numerous to mention in detail here. Several complete grocery stores and convenience stores are located in or within a short distance of the town center and provide a wide variety of products at reasonable prices. A long-time favorite, Checkers, provides a small town full and personalized grocery service, especially meats cut to order, and some of the town's best sandwiches – not to mention Chubby Checkers soft serve and fast food lunches on State Street (Rout 202 south). Deep fat fried, yuuuuummm!

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Chain Stores have found Belchertown. Stop and Shop opened a full service facility on Route 9 one mile from the Commons in 2002; CVS opened a full service store at Routes 9 and 202 in 1997 and has since been enlarged; McDonalds, Duncan Donuts, and Subway have opened stores in the same vicinity. Ace Full Service hardware operates on Stadler Street.

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Auto service centers are numerous and varied and of generally high quality. Specialty stores abound, with a variety of goods.

Restaurants include American, German, Greek, several Chinese, Italian/Pizza, and "home cooking."

Larger shopping centers are available in Amherst/Hadley (12 miles), Ware (10 miles), and East Springfield (18 miles).

Our businesses are generally locally owned or operated by families living in our community and are truly noted for their friendly, hometown environment. You will soon be on a first-name basis with the owners, who come to know your requirements and anticipate your needs. Older school kids find part-time employment, and mothers with time to spare often find jobs with mothers' hours. It's a community affair!

XXII.  FINANCIAL SERVICES

Banking: Belchertown seems destined to become the new financial center of western Hampshire County! For years we have been serviced by at most two banks and a bank-in-the-box! In 2004, no less than 8 banks are vying for position. Existing banks include Ware Country Bank and Charter One. New banks include Florence Savings, Peoples Bank (Stop & Shop), Easthampton Savings, Monson Savings, North Brookfield Savings, and a bank yet to be named. Oh, yes! We still have a Fleet (soon to be merged) Bank-in-a-box!

Accounting:  The community is fortunate to have several well-qualified Accountants and CPAs resident in town, as well as Financial Planners.

XXIII. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

There are Zoning by-laws in place in Belchertown which guide the development of business. Although there are others, two general locations provide opportunity for business development – at and near the intersection of Routes 202 and 9 just north of the town center and State Street just west of the center on or adjacent to Routes 202 and 21.

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With the closure of the former Belchertown State School in 1992, the Town Meeting authorized the establishment of the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corporation with the twin goals of broadening the business tax base and re-creating the jobs lost by the closing of the State School. In 2003, the EDIC assumed ownership of some 200 developable acres of virgin land and redevelopment facilities. The first phase has been approved by local Boards and is now under active development with businesses purchasing property and new infrastructure throughout by the BEDIC, suitable for support of business development

XXIII.  CONCLUSION

Whether a visitor, a prospective new resident, a relocating business, or an "old-timer," we're confident that you will soon come to agree with our opening statement, "Belchertown is a rare community." We are proud of our town, its spirit, environment, and services, and work diligently to continue into the future those qualities so important to the quality of life that our forbears had built into Belchertown over the years.

Our town has grown, and for some, all too rapidly, but for many good reasons, and it will continue to grow for those same reasons. We live in a very desirable community. Sound planning by citizens will continue to insure those qualities of life that contribute to our "rare community." 

 


 
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