, Newburyport, MA

July 5, 2013

Show and tell on the waterfront

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — There is no reason why those not connected with the American Yacht Club at the foot of Lime Street should be aware of the restructuring of its bulkhead.

There’s every reason, however, to applaud because maintenance of waterfront properties is especially important to communities blessed with them.

The yacht club has had upstream neighbors since 1884.

The most recent at its westerly end has been the power station.

Created in 1920, it is currently owned by National Grid, which has been razing old and no longer used buildings on its acreage.

There’s no word as to why, but there’s the inevitable wonder because waterfront acreage is, well, not readily available. Perhaps this will not be, but one never knows.

Newburyport’s waterfront stretches from its share of Plum Island to West Newbury, and that is a lot of coastline for riverfront owners to protect. Almost all of it is either in its natural state or properly cared for by its owners.

There is no better way to appreciate that than to take a very slow boat ride with occasional anchorings to see just how engaging it is.

This small patch of it is, however, unique.

The American Yacht Club has been attending its southeasterly share of the riverfront responsibilities since its origin.

Usually, they are straightforward, and members stand to in order to upgrade what’s required.

This time, however, there was a disconcerting reality to be dealt with at the western end of the bulkhead.

The yacht club’s ground level is several feet higher than that of its neighbor because the ancient bulkhead of the neighboring property has long since collapsed.

Truth to tell, I’m a life member of the yacht club, as well as a Newburyport and Newbury resident for the great part of a very long time.

Not much is expected of life members in most organizations. I had once, the great long ago, dug the hole for what was then a septic tank’s need, but now I take full advantage of just sitting away from the sun on hot days, watching river traffic that interrupts my reading.

On a recent day I walked to the western end of the bulkhead’s reconstruction where I looked down with some shock on granite rocks and a tangle of ancient wharf of the neighboring property where once there had been a proper barrier.

“This cannot be,” I said to no one even as I knew what I was looking at was owned by a company with its roots overseas and matters on its table not likely to include a dilapidated riverfront barrier.

But of course it was, so I visited Georgie Vining, Newburyport’s senior project manager, to fill me in on what he knew.

He could and did with the gist of it being that the riverfront bike and walking route will pass along the waterfront right of way through the power station property.

It will likely enter at a point beyond the westerly end of the yacht club’s property, and dip in an arc above and adjacent to what can be best described as a truly neglected remnant of what the Newburyport central waterfront had once been like.

All matters considered, when it comes to appreciating the result of neglect, there should be a replica site with a proper bench seat for travelers and a brief history of the city’s efforts to reclaim and restore its waterfront.

This is a rare opportunity to show and tell.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is