, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 10, 2012

Merrimac selectmen vote to close River Road permanently

MERRIMAC — The continuing problems with River Road will soon end, as will the road itself.

Repeatedly washed out by storms, eroded by runoff and undermined by the Merrimack River, the Board of Selectmen last week agreed to permanently close River Road to traffic of all types — including automotive, bicycle and pedestrian.

“It doesn’t make any sense to spend $4 million to repair this road, only to have it do it all over again in a few years,” said Selectman Ricky Pinciaro.

Since access to existing lots along the road is not from River Road and homeowner access will be unaffected, the closure poses no difficulties for anyone, according to selectmen.

“That section of road has been closed for six and a half years,” said Chairman Earl Baumgardner.

“With wash coming down the slope, plus the riverbank erosion on the other side, it’s simply not sustainable. Erosion has now gone underneath the roadway, adding to the hazard.”

Tony Komornick, transportation and program manager for the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, appeared at the meeting to lend his support to the decision to permanently close River Road.

“You’d have to build a bridge-like structure for the few people who use the road,” added Selectwoman Laura Mailman.

The second major issue before the board concerned the abuse of town-owned rights-of-way to the McLaren Trail.

According to Sandy Venner of the Open Space Committee, abutters have been abusing trail access points that border their property.

“We’ve been observing for a long time that the end of the trail looks horrible because some people park lots of cars on it,” said Venner.

“Someone else cut down a bunch of trees that were on town-owned property and stacked them up like firewood.”

The Open Space Committee is considering investing in a survey to determine the exact boundaries of the trailhead, which is only 50 feet wide. However, committee members are reluctant to spend the money for a survey without assurance from town officials that abusive abutters will be fined for infringing on town-owned property.

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