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Old 08-21-2016, 07:50 AM
 
Location: Gardner, MA
117 posts, read 98,061 times
Reputation: 249

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Time and again, I read threads about western Mass towns where they're all getting bashed for not being what they supposedly could or should be. Sometimes caveats about why it's an uphill struggle are given (not enough jobs, government doesn't send money fairly to all communities, untreated drug issues, et al), and sometimes there is a nostalgic "it used to be better, but..." going on too. What's been bothering me is the overall tone is typically more negative than positive, even when the town is supposedly "better than most". I don't know if it's an extension of the Keeping Up with the Joneses mentality or what.

emmavine mentioned the concept of "it-is-what-you-make-of-it" in the Greenfield thread.

That got me to wondering what folks who live in these western towns are doing for and/or in their communities to make them work for them, whether now or in the future. I also wonder what folks would like to see happen if they could help that along at all.

I knew when I moved to Gardner that it wasn't paradise. I knew most folks didn't even think it worth considering. Still, we visited several times before moving here, and we haven't regretted it at all. We found the museum, the Chair project, a bookshop no one knew about, parks galore that aren't seedy drug addict hangouts, Farmer's market, summer movies and bands, and a lot more. I keep finding more things to like here as time goes by.

We haven't had much time in the three months and change we've been here to do as much as we'd like out of what Gardner offers, but it really hasn't been as awful as some folks made it out to be. I understand the shortcomings so many are quick to point out, but it's not all that is here, and I'm sure many other places like ours are similar. We like it enough that we're trying to buy a home here, and we plan to live here long term.

So far, of what time I've had to spare, I've done some community minded things. Some volunteer, some buying local sorts of things, some planning for the future when we get more settled in here.

I guess what I'd like to see is folks talking about the positive within their western mass towns, so I don't feel like I'm only ever reading bad news. I'm not saying I want to scrub the bad, I'm saying I'd like to see a bit more balance is all.

So if you live in a western mass town and have things about it you like...please speak up! I'm quite curious to learn as much about the good as I seem to of the bad.
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Old 08-21-2016, 09:40 AM
 
Location: near bears but at least no snakes
24,039 posts, read 23,488,244 times
Reputation: 43997
Good.

Originally I'm from Longmeadow & for the most part, hated it. (Speaking of keeping up with the Joneses!) But the schools were excellent and town facilities like playgrounds and public pool were great for us kids.

I've rented in Amherst, Hadley, Sunderland, and owned a home in Easthampton. I can talk about Easthampton more knowledgeably than the other towns. It has come up in the world from being a blue collar factory town that many people looked down on. About twenty years ago we kicked our incompetent board of selectmen out and got a mayor. He cared deeply about the town and brought many improvements. His successor is following in his footsteps.

The town voted in a new public safety complex--(replaced the Civil War era fire station), ferreted out some do-nothing-over paid town employees, and the mayor got the town pond cleaned up and beautified. Now it's a nice place to go for a walk, especially to take your dog for a walk. The old mills have been turned into artist lofts and showcases, shops, fitness places, and even an RMV.

When I lived in E'ton it was only a ten minute drive on a quiet road to the campus of Smith College. Their campus is an arboretum and anyone is free to stroll, sit on the benches, walk over to the beautiful pond, tour the tropical greenhouses on their own, or wander through the wildflower garden. Anyone can use their library, anyone can attend lectures and concerts. Their art museum may not be world class but it does have works by many world famous artists--not their best and most famous works, but nevertheless, you can see examples of their work and techniques.

Easthampton doesn't have very much in the way of restaurants and shops but Northampton is so close that you can easily avail yourself of all Northampton has to offer. All the big box shopping you could ever want is out on rte 9 and it's not even close to being as congested and built up as rte 9 in EMass. There is also the Ingleside Mall just to the south.

I live out in EMass now, near the beach. That's what we'd like in WMass--a beach!! What we'd like even more would be jobs, of course. But my friends who still live there are retired now and have enviable lifestyles. The Northampton area is an ideal place for retirement, there are so many things to do --and without traffic and other transportation problems.

What would be nice would be decent rail transport to NYC. Most of us would love to see a Broadway show, for instance, and to visit the museums. We'd also like Bradley to offer more international flights, although with the new flights to Ireland this fall, that's a start at least--thanks to the governor of CT.
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Old 08-21-2016, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
6,277 posts, read 8,449,729 times
Reputation: 4695
easy access to the beautiful areas of southern NH and vermont
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Old 08-21-2016, 01:51 PM
 
Location: Springfield and brookline MA
1,331 posts, read 2,789,744 times
Reputation: 1355
I live in West Springfield, we have everything you would need and then some all within a 10-15 minute drive. From shopping to grocery stores , entertainment options , bars , restaurants, movies, theater, sports and so on.

I guess living in the greater Spfld area has more to do than say Colrain or Heath. But it is all very close, I can be in the woods in 30 minutes from my house. I don't have to deal with Eastern Mass traffic or the ridiculous housing cost. It's just a lot more laid back and calm than the eastern half of the state.
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Old 08-21-2016, 07:25 PM
 
Location: North Quabbin, MA
939 posts, read 1,225,685 times
Reputation: 2447
A few highlights... Small local business owners who are deeply invested in improving their local economy and community while providing an amazing artisan product. So much of the rest of the state is covered in Dunkin Donuts and chains while Western Mass entrepreneurs show up with a local option. I know the farmers who grew my vegetables, the brewer who made my beer, and the brick and mortar book seller behind the books on my shelf. The local music venues are full of original local artists or maybe on tour from major metropolitan areas instead of a Guns N Roses cover band. And my rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $600 a month. A "traffic jam" is 8 or more cars at a light. The views of rolling hills and farms go on forever from local conservation areas. I can choose from a half dozen constantly evolving vibrant and classic small city / town downtowns within a 20 minute drive. Why would I ever want to leave?

Well in case I ever squirt out another human, I bet the schools are "better" (maybe even the BEST) in Lexington but I'd have to quintuple the rent, triple my income, lower my standards of natural beauty, and my immediate surroundings will be way more boring!
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Old 08-21-2016, 09:18 PM
 
15,886 posts, read 11,725,509 times
Reputation: 8305
Quote:
Originally Posted by LilyLeftTheValley View Post
Time and again, I read threads about western Mass towns where they're all getting bashed for not being what they supposedly could or should be. Sometimes caveats about why it's an uphill struggle are given (not enough jobs, government doesn't send money fairly to all communities, untreated drug issues, et al), and sometimes there is a nostalgic "it used to be better, but..." going on too. What's been bothering me is the overall tone is typically more negative than positive, even when the town is supposedly "better than most". I don't know if it's an extension of the Keeping Up with the Joneses mentality or what.

emmavine mentioned the concept of "it-is-what-you-make-of-it" in the Greenfield thread.

That got me to wondering what folks who live in these western towns are doing for and/or in their communities to make them work for them, whether now or in the future. I also wonder what folks would like to see happen if they could help that along at all.

I knew when I moved to Gardner that it wasn't paradise. I knew most folks didn't even think it worth considering. Still, we visited several times before moving here, and we haven't regretted it at all. We found the museum, the Chair project, a bookshop no one knew about, parks galore that aren't seedy drug addict hangouts, Farmer's market, summer movies and bands, and a lot more. I keep finding more things to like here as time goes by.

We haven't had much time in the three months and change we've been here to do as much as we'd like out of what Gardner offers, but it really hasn't been as awful as some folks made it out to be. I understand the shortcomings so many are quick to point out, but it's not all that is here, and I'm sure many other places like ours are similar. We like it enough that we're trying to buy a home here, and we plan to live here long term.

So far, of what time I've had to spare, I've done some community minded things. Some volunteer, some buying local sorts of things, some planning for the future when we get more settled in here.

I guess what I'd like to see is folks talking about the positive within their western mass towns, so I don't feel like I'm only ever reading bad news. I'm not saying I want to scrub the bad, I'm saying I'd like to see a bit more balance is all.

So if you live in a western mass town and have things about it you like...please speak up! I'm quite curious to learn as much about the good as I seem to of the bad.
Well Gardner isnt in Western Mass., but glad you like it anyhow.
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Old 08-22-2016, 03:02 AM
 
Location: Gardner, MA
117 posts, read 98,061 times
Reputation: 249
Quote:
Originally Posted by massnative71 View Post
Well Gardner isnt in Western Mass., but glad you like it anyhow.
So you're an east/central/west divider? I ask in all sincerity because I'm not from here originally, and given how often Gardner gets lumped into "western" on this forum, I thought folks who'd been around longer would know.

I tried to quickly look up an exact regional breakdown, but even on Wikipedia, the breakdown results vary depending on the MA page you're viewing. If there is a breakdown on the mass.gov page, it's not under an obvious label I found in my quick scan of their index.
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Old 08-22-2016, 03:59 AM
 
1,044 posts, read 979,204 times
Reputation: 1444
Most of us living in W. Mass. would say that anything in Worcester County (as Gardner is), except for maybe Athol, doesn't qualify as Western Mass. It's the four Western counties, although there is an ongoing debate here as to whether Berkshire County counts (IMO: how could it not?).
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Old 08-22-2016, 05:59 AM
 
15,886 posts, read 11,725,509 times
Reputation: 8305
^Some places like Athol and Ware are debatable, but I dont think anyone in the area would consider Gardner to be anywhere but Central Mass.
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Old 08-22-2016, 06:04 AM
 
Location: Massachusetts & Hilton Head, SC
8,597 posts, read 13,193,265 times
Reputation: 6882
Quote:
Originally Posted by massnative71 View Post
^Some places like Athol and Ware are debatable, but I dont think anyone in the area would consider Gardner to be anywhere but Central Mass.
Yes, Gardner is Central Mass., North Central to be more exact.
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