, Newburyport, MA

April 22, 2013

Taplin hopes water taxi plan will pick up steam

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Bill Taplin is trying to launch a seasonal water taxi between Newburyport and the Salisbury Reservation, and the meter has been running for several years without a supportive response from state officials.

Now Taplin is concerned that if permits don’t come soon, he won’t be able to run his proposed transportation livery service this season either.

“If I got approval soon, I might be able to save August,” said Taplin, a veteran of waterfront commerce. “I am prepared to order and build a boat to do it, but I am not going to take that risk if I don’t have the permits.”

He sold his last commercial vessel but says he is ready to order a $150,000 craft (with 18-inch draft) if he ever gets the green light.

Taplin’s name came up at a recent meeting of the Planning Board. Joseph Leone’s proposed 442-seat restaurant in the old Davis Auto Parts building was being discussed, and several skeptics say the restaurant would take up parking spots used for businesses such as commercial boating.

Taplin’s proposed water taxi has become one of the “what if” elements of the immediate future of the central waterfront.

Leone wants to develop a restaurant; the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has a tentative vision to put shops, restaurants and about 30 to 35 condominiums on either side of the Firehouse; and owners of the Whale Watch and catamaran enterprises are counting on enough parking to serve the hundreds who come to the waterfront each weekend.

Taplin might be among the smallest players in the current maneuvering for state and local approvals, but he is not a newcomer to waterfront politics.

He captained the Yankee Clipper, a 49-foot tourist boat, for almost three decades. For the past half-dozen years, he ran an eco-tour boat, which brought guests up the marshes and river.

Taplin sold the eco-craft, in part because its 3-foot draft would not permit him to run enough trips during low tides to make money. Also, it appeared that the docking facilities in Salisbury were in shambles, but those have been improved.

The 77-year-old former teacher likely could “retire,” but he thinks he’s on to something good with a water taxi to serve the reservation in Salisbury, which hosts thousands of campers per week.

“A water taxi would bring many shoppers camping in Salisbury to shop in Newburyport,” Taplin said. “There would be no cars, no parking problems, just visitors to the city.”

As for landing his vessel, he said they could get off near Pentucket Medical, just west of Cashman Park, and be shuttled to the downtown.

To get started, he needs permission from both the state Fish and Game Administration and the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

He says Mayor Donna Holaday backs his proposal; he reports that both state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, and state Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport, have endorsed his plan.

“It would be a community service,” Taplin says, “if I can just get state approvals.”

Such is the plight of one (potential) riverside merchant as the tourist season is about to begin.


Meanwhile, the NRA is scheduled to meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall for its regular session. This winter the panel was meeting every two weeks, but it is now gathering on a monthly basis.

On Thursday at 7, at the library, the Committee for an Open Waterfront is scheduled to unveil its “alternative” plan for the use of the NRA’s 4.2 riverside acres.

COW officials, who have declined to make their document available to the media, say its plan has no buildings and a lot of park.


The following public meetings are scheduled for this week:


Superintendent Screen Committee of the Whole School Committee, 9 a.m., 91 State St.

Communication Subcommittee of the Whole School Committee, 5:30 p.m., room 118, high school

Bartlet Mall Commission, 6 p.m., library

School Committee, 6:30 p.m., room 118, high school

Moseley Woods Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Hall

Community Preservation Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall auditorium

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Council chambers, City Hall


Retirement Board, 10 a.m., City Hall

Superintendent Screening Committee, 4 p.m., high school library

Water/Sewer Commission, 4:30 p.m., 115B Water St.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., City Hall auditorium


Affordable Housing Trust, 6:30 p.m., City Council chambers, City Hall

Energy Advisory Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall

Parks Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall


General Government Committee, 9 a.m., City Hall


Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or at