Any prospective bike path connection at the Chain Bridge visitors center would likely have to overcome a lot of obstacles to become a reality. Besides the obvious funding challenges, there is also the fact that bikers who come into Amesbury over the Whittier Bridge could still reach the waterfront by way of Merrill Street fairly quickly.
Kezer said that there are a number of other problematic issues that would need to be resolved, including wetland issues and handicap accessibility concerns, but given the Whittier Bridge’s construction timeline, project advocates would have at least three years to solve those problems and come up with a plan anyway.
“The river connection is the last part of the project, because the second phase bridge has to be completed and the southbound traffic moved to the second new bridge in order to create the bike lane,” Kezer said. “It’ll be a driver lane up until that point.”
The Amesbury visitors center has seen many uses since the single-story structure was first built in 1938. Originally it was known as Smith’s Chain Bridge Filling Station No. 3, named after Nelson Smith, who purchased the property in 1933 and built the station five years later.
The gas station closed in the mid-1970s and then became a car wash, which operated at the site until it shut down in the early 1990s. The town took the site shortly afterwards due to unpaid taxes, and today the building is used primarily as a place to set up holiday-themed displays, but not much else.
Over the past year, a plan to transform a brick building in the Lower Millyard into a new home for the Amesbury Carriage Museum, the Amesbury Visitors Center and the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce has begun to build momentum. What impact the plan could have on the Chain Bridge visitors center is unclear at this point, but Kezer said there is still interest within the community to spruce up the area.