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April 24, 2014

Officials take look at site for river access

WEST NEWBURY — The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game conducted a site visit to the existing boat ramp near Rocks Village Bridge yesterday.

The purpose was to assess whether the area could accommodate a car top site for kayak and fishing access to the Merrimack River. The state is weighing whether to pay for construction costs to improve the site.

West Newbury sold the shoreline to the state in the late 1960s to construct a boat ramp. In 1976, a petition with 100 signatures demanded the state make good on its promise, but at that time, funding was not available.

In 1998, 300 residents petitioned selectmen to reject a plan to develop the boat ramp area that included paving adjacent town-owned land known as Ferry Lane Park.

Last fall Steve Greason, chairman of the Open Space Committee, worked with state officials to bring a proposal to selectmen that could have brought in $500,000 in state funds for a new boat ramp, dock, science walk and parking area. After receiving push-back from the Garden Club and residents living in the area, selectmen formed a task force to research other possible areas of access to the river in town.

This spring 34 citizens petitioned selectmen to place an article on the annual warrant that would set aside the Ferry Lane Park triangle as a passive green park in perpetuity. A second warrant article seeks to rescind Town Meeting authorization from 1967, which gave selectmen the authority to decide the fate of the Ferry Park area without first seeking Town Meeting approval.

Voters at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday will take up the two issues under Articles 6 and 7 on the annual warrant. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Town Annex.

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