Carlisle, MA

Carlisle Today

Rural Heritage

Carlisle still appears very much a country town. Fields and weathered barns mark the landscape in the center as well as the outskirts of town. There is much undeveloped land of a typically New England nature, from wetlands and cranberry bog to rocky pasture and woodlot. Carlisle's farming history and practice of setting aside large pieces of conservation land has made the town a major link in the green belt that lies within the industrial perimeter of Routes 95 (128) and 495. The character of the population has changed greatly since World War II. What was once a farming community is now a suburb of Boston and Lowell, with growing numbers of professional people from the academic, scientific and business communities choosing to settle here. Newcomers, however, have joined longtime residents in their preference for a rural rather than an urban way of life. Carlisle has chosen to grow slowly and idiosyncratically and to keep many of the values of its rural past.

Open Space

Approximately 25% of the town is protected conservation land. The town owns about 730 acres, plus 151 acres of the Cranberry Bog which includes an operating cranberry bog. The state owns 914 acres and 230 acres are owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior. There are also private lands permanently preserved as open space. Carlisle's conservation land protects groundwater, wildlife, open space, farm, and forest land; and it provides a setting for outdoor recreation.

Town Services

In keeping with its rural atmosphere, Carlisle has few town services. There is no town water supply, nor is there any town sewage system. The visitor soon discovers that the only mail collection boxes are at the post office. The new householder may be surprised that no trash collection truck wheels to the door and a trip to the transfer station on Saturday is the social event of the week.

The Gleason Library building is located at 22 Bedford Road houses the library and once housed many of the town offices. The new Town Hall, dedicated in 1997, is located west of the center on the front part of the Conant land at 66 Westford Street. The Board of Health, Conservation Commission, Planning Board
and Council on Aging offices are located in the Town Hall where most evening committee meetings are held.

The School Committee meets at the school, with parking in the lot off Church Street. A police station and a new fire station were build in the mid-1980's. Shortly thereafter the town completed its most recent addition to the school complex. Named for Abigail Corey, one of Carlisle's first teachers, the Corey Building houses the auditorium, gymnasium, music room and cafeteria. Cory Audiorium plays host to Annual and Special Town Meetings, while Cory Cafeteria manages overflow as needed.

Despite its growing pains and small town ways, Carlisle provides a nurturing environment for those people for whom "quality of life" caring for one another today and sharing concern for the future implies.

Notes to Previous Hometown

On the other hand, the road runs up to Carlisle, city of the woods, which, if it is less civil, is the more natural. It does well hold the earth together. It gets laughed at because it is a small town, I know, but nevertheless it is a place where great men may be born any day, for fair winds and foul blow right on over it without distinction. It has a meeting-house and horse-sheds, a tavern and blacksmith's shop, for centre, and a good deal of woods to cut and cord yet.

Henry David Thoreau, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" *
Hello! It has been some five months since we landed in Massachusetts, and we are finally getting organized enough to send a word back to the friends and colleagues we left in the San Francisco Bay Area. As you can tell from the enclosed photographs, there is little chance of getting the two locales confused, especially in winter. However, we consider ourselves very fortunate - we came from one the best places in the US (okay, planet) to live and have found ourselves in another great spot to call home.

There are more similarities than differences between our California home and our Massachusetts home - from schools, neighbors, to nearby city, and more.


The differences, though, are interesting. Whereas northern California is scenically spectacular, Massachusetts is bucolic (though Cape Cod rivals Monterey). Our California hometown of Danville has a wonderful downtown, great restaurants, excellent schools, and outstanding amenities - a short list of favorites includes Osage Park, the Danville Station pool, and Mt. Diablo in our backyard.

In contrast, Carlisle (pop. 4,900) has one general store (the tavern, sadly, is long gone), has nearly 30% of its land under permanent conservatorship, and is so ecologically minded that mosquito spraying is prohibited. Mosquito is the name of the town newspaper, and the no-spray policy causes endless friction with neighboring communities who blame every bite on a Carlisle native.
Differences become more dramatic when the two acre (87,000 square feet in California terms) minimum lot size is considered as well as the fact that Carlisle offers no sewers, no gas lines, and (get this) no garbage pick up. Rather than BFI trucks wheeling around, there is a transfer station near the center of town serving as the informal (if occasionally pungent) meeting place where everyone brings their dutifully separated refuse.

It took nearly a month for our telephone to come online, as they actually had to run new wire to our house. Since cell phone towers are prohibited within town lines, we were incommunicado - kind of nice, in a medieval sort of way. Carlisle, though, borders the Route 128 technology corridor, is 18.5 (as the crow flies to Beacon Hill -ed) miles from the center of Boston, and recently had its school system ranked first in Massachusetts (best mathematics in New England).

Quality of Life

The town maintains an incongruously good web page at Cross-country ski trails are maintained in the winter (and lighted by lantern at night) and, during, the summer, bicycle time trials (a type of individual race) are held in the town center each Tuesday evening. Last week's police blotter in the Mosquito reported three minor vehicular accidents due to icy roads, a missing child reported at 7:24 a.m. - found at 7:26 a.m., and a front door left open on a cold morning. Of course serious incidents do occur - perhaps just a little less frequently.

Our neighbors include Concord and Lexington, birthplaces of the American Revolution, and, we are told, Paul Revere's ride was within 5 miles of our house. Around here, every tree that Paul or his steed may have used is a designated national landmark.

*A side note to the Thoreau quotation - It turns out that "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" did not sell very well. The publisher had 706 out of 1,000 copies remaining and needed the shelf space for newer volumes. Thoreau agreed to buy the unsold copies and subsequently remarked in his personal journal 'I now have a library of some 900 volumes, over 700 of which I wrote myself'.

[Carlisle Yesterday]


Based on excerpts from 'Know Your Town', courtesy of The League of Women Voters of Carlisle, April 1985
Notes to California - shared by resident Chris Petersen
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