, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 18, 2013

COW presents vision to NRA

Groups disagree on role of waterfront park, funding

NEWBURYPORT — The Committee for an Open Waterfront presented its vision for the central waterfront last night to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and both sides seemed to agree on at least one thing: There is a need for a larger and better park along the river.

But the two sides remain in conflict — and the difference of opinion is quite vast — on how to achieve that goal.

The NRA owns 4.2 acres of riverfront property, much of it taken up by parking lots. The five-member NRA panel has developed a tentative vision on how to increase green, open space, while not costing the taxpayers money.

Its vision includes selling or leasing the land to a private developer, and central to that plan is construction of three buildings that would house shops, a restaurant and perhaps 30 to 35 condominiums.

In response, the COW organization has created its tentative vision that calls for a larger park and improved parking — with no buildings.

Before a standing-room-only crowd in the library, COW offered a sophisticated, digitized presentation designed to show that a larger park and improved parking opportunities can be achieved without buildings.

Lon Hachmeister, a key leader of COW, said, “Our vision is similar to the NRA’s park plans; we just don’t have buildings.”

John Morris, an NRA member, almost agreed. “I’m on the board of the Essex County Greenbelt (organization),” Morris said. “I believe in parks and open space, and I like some of the ideas of the presentation.

“But we’ve got to be able to pay for things. We’ve had 30 years of missed opportunity here. Sometimes you might have to give up something to get something better.”

Though many extraneous thoughts were aired, the crux of practical disagreement appears to be how to pay for a better park.

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