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Holyoke may be best kept secret in area

Date: 8/18/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Holyoke has received a bum rap in some quarters over the years and two recent events are an indication that the Paper City is alive and vibrant and has a solid future.

Now let's be blunt for a moment: There are some people who hear the word "Holyoke" and conjure up images, which, frankly, are grossly inaccurate. I don't see Holyoke as unsafe or crime-ridden and I am in the city much more than the people who harbor such notions.

Holyoke for me is one of the most interesting places in the region. Its history and architecture is singular as well as its traditions. When I've had friends visit me from out of town, I always take them over to Holyoke for a bit of a history lesson.

I always show them the canals and drop by Open Square to see how old mills buildings can be re-used. A side trip to Nick's Nest for a dog is also usually in order.

Now, that assignment has been made even easier for me with the creation of the "Discover Holyoke" brochure produced by the Passport Holyoke, the group of businesses and attractions that have been working together to promote tourism to the city.

The brochure has a map that points out restaurants and lodging as well as a walking guide to points such as the Holyoke Merry-go-Round, Volleyball Hall of Fame, Wire Monkey Dance, Wistariahurst Museum, the Children's Museum at Holyoke, the Canal Gallery and many more.

There's a lot going on in Holyoke and PassportHolyoke should get a hearty handshake for this effort.

After I was writing about the newly revived Mountain Park area, I was glancing through Jay Ducharme's excellent book on Mountain Park (available through Arcadia Publishing hey, so is my book on Springfield) and I found a photo taken from almost the same perspective as the one that graced our front covers last week.

In the photo from the 1940s, one can see where the merry-go-round once stood and the roller coaster in the background. What impressed me is how Mountain Park had been a nearly constantly evolving place changing from owner to owner and responding to the changes in the entertainment industry.

Eric Suher's plans are not only good news for Holyoke, but also good news for the region. Taking the park area and transforming it into an outdoors music and festival venue will draw tens of thousands of people to the area. I'm sure the area's restaurants and hotels will benefit from Suher's new business.


You may have not been able to see all of President Obama's remarks from his town meeting in New Hampshire last week. The entire transcript will be up on our Web site, but here is an excerpt:

"Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. (Applause.) They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. (Applause.) They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. (Applause.) Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan. (Applause.)

"Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.)

"And finally this is important we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies (applause) because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money and we need to save money in this health care system.

So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. (Applause.) If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthier. (Applause.) Right. (Laughter.)"

I have to ask: what's wrong with these proposals? Honestly. Take away the talking points the insurance companies have put forth. Eliminate the rants of pundits who are simply opposed to Obama. Don't we need critical reforms?

I think so. Do you?

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028. And follow me on Twitter at