The above facts could be viewed as anecdotal, but the indisputable crux of the issue is as follows. The “Declaration of Public Trust,” establishing the Newburyport Waterfront Trust (whose lands are adjacent to and surround the NRA’s property), signed on Jan. 28, 1991, reads: “The purpose of this Trust shall be to hold, manage, maintain ... conserve and utilize the ‘public trust lands’ as natural resources for use and enjoyment by the public in perpetuity, for the benefit of the residents of the City of Newburyport, West Newbury and Newbury in particular, and of the general public, with free access of the public to and from the ‘public trust lands’ forever.”
Note the sign on the boardwalk in Newburyport that reads: “The Old Waterfront: Somerby’s Landing - Laid out in 1752 by the Town of Newbury as a public way to and from the waterfront.”
Almost unbelievably, Newburyport’s open, public central waterfront, which appears to be but one single unified tract of land, is legally separated into several segments, not all of which are contiguous. The NRA owns some segments; the NWT owns the others. The NRA apparently believes that their parcels are for the use of Newburyporters only; the NWT acknowledges that their parcels are there for the benefit of all. Must the non-residents play hopscotch among the land areas so as not to trespass where they are not welcome?
And, last but not least, the NRA lands are legally classified as “Commonwealth Tidelands” and as such must remain accessible to all residents, not just to those from Newburyport. And therefore everybody should have the right to have a say in their eventual disposition. Including those troublesome folks from Newbury.
So it would it would behoove the NRA to treat everyone respectfully. The waterfront, which at its essence is a historical site of national import, belongs to us all. I insist that the NRA listen to us. To all of us.
Elizabeth G. Heath of Newburyport is chair of the Committee for an Open Waterfront.