NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Port in Progress

June 15, 2007

30 years later, city's front porch is showing its age

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Like many Newburyport natives, Barbara Dresser can track the big changes in her life by the health of Newburyport's central waterfront.

She first brought her children to look at the water from the ragged banks, then came back as they grew older and the boardwalk was built. She regularly joined her husband for lunch on the boardwalk. Now, nearly every night, she visits with friends she met on the boardwalk, sits on a bench dedicated to her late husband, and looks out from the city's front porch.

The waterfront was always there | and always changing.

"I used to come down here with my kids, before there was anything, and now they're 42 and 45," she said.

Thirty years after it was built, the boardwalk is at once newly renovated and struggling for survival. With some components at the end of their expected life, Newburyport's promenade is threatened by unexpectedly rapid decay in its seawall.

"Can you play pro football 35 years?" asks Jack Bradshaw, who led the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority when the boardwalk and waterfront were established. "I don't think so, even with all the padding and the helmets. It's worn. It's expected to be worn."

Geordie Vining, senior project manager for the city's planning department, said 2002 renovations put long-lasting decking on the top and repaired everything on the land side of the boardwalk, which had endured aging as well as anyone expected when it was built in 1977.

"I think we've basically gotten our money's worth out of the initial boardwalk," he said. "It's just a terrific, an amazing piece of infrastructure, and we're well set for the next generation with the boardwalk itself. Now we have to fix the waterside portion of it so we don't have to worry about it for another generation."

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