, Newburyport, MA


February 6, 2013

'Bookends' don't belong on Waterfront Park

To the editor:

Although not a resident of Newburyport, I grew up in the area, attended Newburyport High School, buy most of my groceries, basic necessities and extravagances in the city of Newburyport. Over the decades, I have traveled to Newburyport by foot, bicycle, train, bus and car, and now as a senior citizen have the hope to be continuing to do so for a generous number of years to come. It is a lovely city with many treasures, not the least of which is the Waterfront Park location. Along with the downtown and historic homes, it is a major attraction to those of us visiting, as well as those living, in the city. Yet it is a small green area. The Boston Public Gardens, by comparison, is 24 1/4 acres, whereas the green area of Newburyport’s Waterfront Park is about 2.3 acres with the parking lots an additional 4.2 acres increasing the designated NRA area to about 6.5 acres.

I frankly do not understand why a far-sighted mayor with a cooperative NRA and supportive residents do not seize the opportunity to finish off the park and parking lots and make them really stunning for the thousands of residents and visitors who are drawn to the waterfront. The available land is so minimal for the number who enjoy it and for the potential activities that could occur there.

The threat of development to dedicated park land is not new. The Boston Public Gardens faced a similar threat as did New York’s Central Park, to which the following two excerpts will attest. In the 1820s, Boston “Mayor Josiah Quincy convinced his fellow citizens that this land should be annexed to the Common ‘and forever kept open and free of buildings of any kind, for the use of the citizens. ... private citizens began its conversion into a botanic garden in 1839, planting carefully chosen trees that have now grown to impressive proportions, yet greedy persons as late as 1850 still hankered to cut it up into building lots” (”Boston: Portrait of a City,” Katherine Knowles and Walter Muir Whitehill).

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