, Newburyport, MA


March 5, 2013

A walk in the park? Not when it snows

Newburyport is often touted as a walking city, but is it really?

During yet another wintry weekend, I decided to put this oft-voiced claim to the rubber test, because if the city were walkable in wintertime, it would be walkable anytime.

Committing to the task heart and sole, and donning my best New Balance sneakers, I trekked 7.2 miles in 70 minutes, from Plum Island through Newburyport proper for a full, first-hand experience. Down the Plum Island turnpike I strode at a lively pace, making a left turn at Ocean Avenue to Rolfes Lane, then right onto High Street and on to Storey Avenue, all the way to the I-95 juncture.

Here’s what I found along the way:

Most of the sidewalks — where there even are sidewalks, that is — are in abominable shape. They’re buckled and broken, ragged and ripped, muddy and mucky and not very inviting to walkers.

Dirty old snow and ice remain from snowstorms past, rendering many of the sidewalks completely impassable. Consequently, I was forced to pursue alternating paths, from sidewalk to street, back and forth, over and over again.

Homeowners with brick walkways seemed to have done the best job of clearing them. Perhaps they are proud to compliment their homes with the fine appearance presented by their well-maintained red brick sidewalks.

In startling contrast, walkways bordering the two cemeteries along my route were the absolute worst, being largely uneven dirt affairs covered with mounds of filthy snow and edged with slippery mud. They are truly a disgrace for all seasons, but I suppose that’s about all that one can expect when the occupants can no longer be fined for not maintaining their sidewalks.

Nevertheless, it’s a pleasant walk, or at least it would be if more motorists knew that it is perfectly legal to cross over even a double yellow stripe to give walkers a wider berth, instead of speeding past with a margin of inches.

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