NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 10, 2013

Plenty of grant support for waterfront plan

To the editor:

I take issue with the assertion that the Committee for an Open Waterfront’s financial plan for its alternative concept makes a thin argument for grant support for the project (“Finding a compromise on the waterfront” editorial, May 1).

The subcommittee which I chair spent hundreds of hours researching and compiling data, writing and editing text to produce Funding the Waterfront Park Without Private Development, which identifies14 government grants and 34 grants from private foundations. These were screened and selected from thousands of possibilities because their missions are consistent with the goals of expanding our waterfront park and improving parking. They total over $17,000,000. We need less than $2,000,000.

No one grant will pay for this park. You can use that as an excuse to do nothing or you can do as we have done — identify multiple sources. Successful grant seeking requires that you press the case that your goals are also those of the grant maker. A government agency may provide funds to clean up lead contamination on the site; another could give money to improve parking because the project is close to a scenic byway. A foundation that focuses on recreation for disabled children might pay for a handicapped-accessible play structure; historic preservationists could award a grant for interpretive signage to educate visitors about our seafaring past.

This is a big job, one that’s easy to dismiss if you don’t have the stomach for it.

COW has members with extensive grant-writing experience ready to volunteer to help with this challenging task. Volunteers have already done some of the work by screening sources, providing application instructions and listing more possible grant sources for further research.

How to pay for maintenance also troubles the editorial writer. The land in question is about the same size as the adjacent Market Landing Park and Boardwalk that costs the Newburyport Waterfront Trust about $50,000 a year to maintain. Last year the NRA received $114,000 in parking fees from their two parking lots, even though fees are not collected after 6 p.m. or before noon on Sunday. Although this would make the park self-sustaining, we also outline several other strategies for raising revenue for maintenance without raising taxes.

The report was prepared in the hope that it will stimulate serious discussion and help put to rest the myth that selling off the public waterfront is the only way to preserve it.

Sandra Small, Chair

COW Funding the Park Subcommittee

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