I see the waterfront as a vibrant hub of activity: families are picnicking on the grass in the warmth of a Sunday afternoon; couples are ambling the shaded pathways; folks are congregated along the boardwalk enjoying the sun and the glistening river, watching the boats entering and departing the harbor.
A street musician is serenading people strolling through the park, while kids are skimming a Frisbee nearby. Bicycle riders are cruising the bike path with care feeling the gently wind, taking in the beauty of the trees and flowers, the lawns and the shade.
Visitors to the city are drawn to the park with its grassy expanse providing a respite from the rush of traffic and the bustle of the day. They are drawn to the casual restaurants and cafes that define the perimeter of the park, affording an opportunity to relax over a fresh salad or a delicious latte or indulge in a crisp glass of wine. They are drawn by the quaint shops offering the artistry of the city’s retail community.
And when summer fades to the drearier and colder months of winter, the waterfront is still vibrant, beckoning citizens to enjoy the warmth of its venues; lunch and dinner by crackling fireplaces, a glass of wine with friends to cheer the soul, a purchase put off for too long … and all affording a view of the pristine park and views of the water which created the Clipper City …
When I think about the waterfront it is the above image that excites my imagination. It is an image that compliments the present downtown area of the city, its heritage and its connection to the sea. When I look at the waterfront now, I see an exquisite little park bordered on one side by the dynamic Firehouse Center for the Arts building, and on the other by the bandstand area on the water’s edge where citizens gather for concerts and other community activities.
The east and west, however, are bounded by an ugly expanse of barren, gravel parking lots, displaying unsightly parking bumpers, potholes and rutted driveways in sharp contrast to the peaceful beauty of the park. Their expanse dwarfs the size of the park. They run fully down to the boardwalk impinging upon the beauty of the river … and like so much scrawl seeks to rub out the pristine grace of the city’s waterfront.
Newburyport is a dynamic city. It is noted for its architecture, artistry and history … its welcoming people. It attracts visitors from surrounding towns, from around the state and from around the country. Should one of the primary focal points of the city exhibiting its enduring and courageous heritage to the sea be primarily gravel parking lots? It makes no sense. I think the people of Newburyport want a waterfront area that compliments the rest of the downtown— an urban center that was preserved in the 11th hour by energetic mayors and citizens with vision and foresight. Their legacy must be sustained and enhanced.
Kenneth B. Smith lives in Newbury.