, Newburyport, MA


June 18, 2014

Compromise needed on farm 'fun' use

Kimball Farm in rural east Haverhill played host to a successful KidsFEST celebration last weekend. There were no traffic problems reported from the Sunday event, which was a happy improvement over the traffic nightmare spawned by a May 31 event at the farm.

Cars backed up for miles trying to get to the East Broadway farm for the “Color Me Rad” race that day. Traffic was backed up all the way to Route 110 and Interstate 495 more than three miles away, police said. Officials have used words such as “crisis,” “disaster” and “nightmare” to describe the scene. Residents in the neighborhood could not get into or out of their driveways.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro said in a letter to the City Council that the situation was so bad, he would not support future events at Kimball Farm. In response, the council denied permits to three upcoming events planned for the farm, which were organized by the Amesbury-based Front Office Events.

The organization, which is affiliated with Amesbury Sports Park, has run numerous events in Amesbury. Many have gone off without a hitch, but some have caused the same kind of traffic headaches for Amesbury.

That decision angered Judy Kimball, longtime owner of Kimball Farm. She is considering legal action against the city.

“The city is taking away our right to get income from our property,” Kimball told reporter Shawn Regan last week. “I’m taking no more of this.”

Rather than such precipitous action as the council’s outright denial of permits for events and the threat of a legal response, perhaps the Kimballs and the council, as well as Chief DeNaro and the farm’s neighbors, can get together and work out some kind of compromise that serves everyone. The success of KidsFEST, which drew 6,000 to 8,000 participants, shows that Kimball Farm is capable of hosting events of that scale without disrupting the neighborhood. Similarly, an event last year, Foam Fest, drew 7,500 participants without any problems. The senior police officer at the event wrote that the event was well organized with no traffic problems or “rowdy” elements.

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