Erving at a glance
Incorporated: 1838
Population: 1,467 (2000 US Census)
Area: 14 square miles
Distance from Boston: 81 miles
Tax rate: $3.67 per $1,000 (residential), $5.85 per $1,000 commercial)
Form of government: Three-member Board of Selectmen, administrative coordinator, open town meeting
Median house price: $79,500 (2000)
Public schools: Erving Elementary; Great Falls Middle School and Turners Falls High (both in Turners Falls)
Hospital: Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield
Transportation: Bus service between Gardner and Greenfield; paratransit service for elderly and disabled
Library: Erving Center Library, Ervingside Library
Community Profile

'Mill town' Erving also has natural beauty

By David Maloof, Globe Correspondent, 6/02/2001 [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The town of Erving runs along Route 2 from the French King Bridge in the west to the Erving Paper Mills in the east — two markers that serve as appropriate symbols for the town.

The bridge spans 750 feet and is all but surrounded by trees, rising majestically 140 feet above the Connecticut River.

That image of nature is one appropriate symbol. Another is the 96-year-old Erving Paper Mills — no thing of beauty, but a longtime center of employment.

And of other activity: Don Mailloux noted that his parents met at the mills, where both worked. They came from opposite directions — Athol to the east, Turners Falls to the west — and met about halfway (geographically, if not otherwise) in Erving, where today all but one of their eight children still live.

Unlike many "mill towns," Erving still has a working mill. But it had two until last September, when Millers Falls Paper (owned by International Paper) closed.

"We'd like to get someone else into that mill," Dan Hammock said, as well as into an Erving Paper Mills building that closed about six years ago. Hammock, a selectman, sees another mill or a conference center as options.

Erving is small in population (under 1,500) and size (14 square miles). What's also small is the town's residential tax rate: less than $4 per $1,000.

The rate is not lost on potential buyers. "Most of the people are now attracted [to Erving] because of the tax rate," says Mailloux, who sells real estate for Upton-Massamont Realtors in South Deerfield.

"A lot of the homes turn over real quick, and prices are starting to go up," he said.

The greatest factor in the low tax rate, according to Jacquelyn Boyden of the assessor's department, is the presence of the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage facility, which pumps water uphill, then lets it down to power turbines that are located underground in Erving. Erving's hilly terrain — along with the presence of Erving State Forest, which takes up roughly one-third of the town — also means scarce development opportunities, according to Mailloux.

As a result, the town is unlikely to undergo any drastic physical changes, he said.

To Hammock, the only change that comes to mind has happened because, as he put it, "The town has changed along with the world. Thirty years ago you could stand on your back porch with a .22-rifle and no one cared. Today, people would want to call the SWAT team in."

Erving's main street is Route 2, which runs virtually next to the Millers River, the town's southern border. There is no town center or town common. According to Hammock, the renovations to the town offices will include a cupola and peaked roof "to make it look more 'New England.' "

Another project is a $5 million expansion to the elementary school, and the middle and high school are in the "very early stages of planning" for renovation and expansion, according to building committee member Jean Truckey.

MCAS combined score rankings for 2000 placed the fourth grade at 208 (out of 294), and at the regional schools, the eighth grade scored 260 (of 425), and the 10th grade, 122 (of 320).

Mailloux said that this spring the average home sells for $80,000 to $85,000, and that "there's a lot of new people the last 5-10 years."

Still, population rose by just under 100 in the past decade, according to US Census figures. While a new home is a rare sight, Mailloux said that a 26-home subdivision is planned on Old State Road.

The town has no gas station, something brought up by several residents. There also is no bank (though an ATM can be found in the bowling alley), or supermarket (but two small grocery stores), which means traveling to Greenfield or Orange for banking or shopping.

The town also has no senior housing, Mailloux noted. Most of the town does have sewer service, he said.

There's no shortage of restaurants, however, with four along Route 2 that serve either diner items or a familiar steak/seafood/pasta mix.

The state forest offers outdoor recreation. Indoors, the bowling alley packs within its walls not only candlepin bowling but pool tables, Keno, a bar, and even two tanning booths. It is owned by Ralph Sembo, who also holds the record for a string of candlepin bowling.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 5/26/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
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