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What is it like to live in Chelmsford?

The First Congregational Society Unitarian Church was started in 1655.Photos by Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Old enough to remember the original Chelmsford Ginger Ale, Fran McDougall has been living in the house where she raised her five children since 1971. A retired teacher, she is a Town Meeting representative, runs the Chelmsford Farmers’ Market, and helped organize the town’s 350th anniversary celebration in 2005.

Born and raised in Newtonville, McDougall settled with her family in Chelmsford after a period in Westfield, when her then-husband was training with the Federal Aviation Administration. She now has eight grandchildren (two of whom are being raised in Chelmsford) and one great-grandchild.

“We landed right in the spot where you want to be,” McDougall said. Her ranch-style home was part of a new development built on the edge of an old apple orchard, within walking distance of shops.


“We have two highways [Route 3 and Interstate 495] that carry us wherever we want to go,” McDougall said, and she believes the town has “the best open-space stewardship around.”

But the real reason she has lived in Chelmsford for the majority of her life is simple, she said: “It’s the people. I’ve made so many great friends here.”

By the numbers


Number of vendors at this summer’s Chelmsford Farmers’ Market (Thursdays, through Oct. 1), including Jones Farm, Parlee Farms, Fudge ‘n’ Stuff, and Fior D’Italia Pasta & Cheese.


Original cost of the town’s 27-foot-high granite Revolutionary War
, which was dedicated on May 2, 1859.

Pros and cons


Open space

Though Chelmsford is a good-sized town (33,802 residents), there’s plenty of room. The town covers 22.54 square miles, with the Merrimack River to the north and the Concord River to the east. There’s lots to do under the open sky, with several reservations, a popular rail trail, and swimming at Freeman Lake and Heart Pond .



Budget squabbles

Governed by a representative Town Meeting, residents have been
at odds over budgeting. Despite it all, the town’s bond rating was recently upgraded to AA+

Traffic in downtown Chelmsford.Jim Davis/Globe Staff
The Merrimack River separates Lowell and Chelmsford in a section of North Chelmsford.Jim Davis/Globe Staff
A colorful scene at Jones Farm.Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Young golfers at the Chelmsford Country Club, a public nine-hole golf course.Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Old headstones at the Forefathers Burial Grounds.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff
Fran McDougall, Chelmsfordnone

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.