From the Boston Globe

Boston Globe, 6/6/2004


Home at 394 Littlefield road, asking $1.2 million.

View of field behind Steele Farm on Middle road in Boxborough. (Globe photos)

Miles from Boston: 26
Population: 5,147
Median house price: $698,500
Tax rate: $13.32 per thousand
Transportation: easy access to Route 2, I-495; MBTA commuter rail service at South Acton, Littleton
Best things: open space, quiet quality of life
Worst things: housing prices, commuter traffic, no big grocery store
MCAS: In 2003, Boxborough 10th-graders ranked 7 in English (out of 273 school districts), higher than Weston (12) and lower than Harvard (2), and 9 in math, higher than Wayland (12) and lower than Harvard (5). In English, 52 percent scored advanced; in math, 62 percent.
Census facts: Median age is 37. Median income for males is $72,414; for females, $47,008.
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BOXBOROUGH --On a recent spring day, the view from bucolic Steele Farm, halfway up Middle Road, was of trees and meadows. Everything, it seemed, on this large parcel of municipal land was verdant and thick, and in the distance, there was more green.

Conservation and preservation are priorities for Boxborough, a town that owns and protects over 20 percent of its 10.39 square miles. Public space, marked with trails, seems to be around every corner. And while a $725,000 override was vetoed by residents last year, the town spent $1.2 million ($650,000 of town money, combined with state funding) on 71.4 acres of green space.

"If we had it our way," said Selectman Don Wheeler, "we'd lock up the town and not let any more buildings go up. But we need the taxes."

Conveniently, Cisco Systems moved its headquarters for New England Engineering to Boxborough in 2000, on over 350 acres of land, with 160 acres set aside for recreation and conservation, including miles of paved trails, a sanctuary for the endangered spotted turtle, and a 10-acre playing field built for the town.

Cisco's campus has added substantially to the tax coffers; as a result, this year's budget increased 4.32 percent over last year's, allowing the town to reinstate a member of the police force, purchase new road safety equipment, and maintain staff at City Hall. A $3.5 million library is under construction.

While Boxborough's population growth has slowed recently, it had doubled in the 1990s. As a result, Luther Blanchard Elementary School underwent two expansions in the past dozen years. Blanchard is the only school in town. Students in grades 8-12 attend regional schools, shared with Acton. Boxborough pays approximately 20 percent of the regional school budget. In 2002, Boston Magazine identified Acton-Boxborough Regional High School as one of the state's top 10 high schools.

According to local lore, the town got its name due to its shape. Farmers who lived on the outskirts of neighboring Stowe, Littleton, and Harvard were frustrated with how far away they were from church. So they acquired a meetinghouse and formed a new town -- signed into existence on Feb. 24, 1783 -- by combining pieces of those neighboring towns. The resulting district resembled a square, so they called their new home Boxborough.

Today, 46 percent of the housing stock is condos, and residential properties run the gamut from brick apartment buildings to rambling farmhouses, to boxy 1970s contemporaries, to the handful of working farms that still dot the hills. A 1.5-acre building lot --of which few remain -- would cost about $350,000, creating what Don Wheeler sees as a dilemma: "Housing prices have created a problem with retention of old-timers. And our own kids can't live here."


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