Commentary

Perseverance Pays Off

by Lon Hachmeister
Published on
June 22, 2024
Contributors
Allies and Partners
City of Newburyport
The Daily News of Newburyport

This is one in a continuing series of educational columns about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

On Monday, 17 June 2024, the City of Newburyport held a historic ribbon-cutting  ceremony for the opening of the new Market Landing Park, an expanded version of the smaller waterfront park created in 1991 and managed by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust for the past 33 years.

Their directive was: to hold, manage, maintain, conserve, and utilize the land for the enjoyment of the citizens of Newburyport, Newbury, and West Newbury in perpetuity, allowing the public free access to the waterfront forever.


The new Market Landing Park, the product of patient civic collaboration over many years, sits on a 4.4-acre waterfront land parcel that was initially acquired under eminent domain by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) as part of a 1968 urban renewal project which had extensive plans to develop the property with buildings.

Market Landing Park -- Newburyport

 In April 1972, a small group of Newburyport residents and business owners organized “The Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront” to protect public rights to the lands of this urban renewal project, particularly those filled tidelands on the Merrimack River. The Friends were supported by attorneys William (Bill) Harris and Robert Wolfe who pursued the restoration of ten historic “ways to the waterfront” reaching from Merrimac and Water Streets to the river across the NRA waterfront land. Between 1976 and 1980, The Friends litigated in the state Land Court and finally determined that two of ten historic ways and landings were to be held in irrevocable public trust to be operated to the net public benefit.


In the same year, the Committee for an Open Waterfront (COW) was formed to be the voice of the waterfront, replacing The Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront. In 1991, the Newburyport Waterfront Trust commenced management of two small parks, a 20-foot-wide public boardwalk, and potentially six prospective historic ways to the waterfront.


​Over the intervening 30-some years many attempts to develop the remaining NRA waterfront lands have come and gone, but the waterfront land has remained open.

Finally, after shifting public views on sea level rise and continued advocacy by COW and many other concerned citizens, we have a glorious open waterfront park along the Merrimack. The new waterfront park is there for the public to enjoy as intended by The Friends over 50 years ago, including bikers, strollers and dog walkers. It has plenty of picnic tables, swings, and Adirondack chairs for all. This is a good reason to celebrate. 

 
COW and its membership are not gloating over this community victory to preserve our open waterfront. Rather, we are extremely thankful for all those elected officials, including current and former Mayors and City Councilors who supported our efforts, and successive waves of COW advocates who donated their time and sometimes their money to preserve an open Newburyport waterfront.


Monday’s ribbon-cutting was a special achievement which should be held up high.

In the early 1970s, Newburyport became the first city in the nation to use its redevelopment money to restore our history rather than demolish it, resulting in the rebirth of this great city. We have shown what can be achieved by goodwill, collaboration, patience, persistence, and hard work. Congratulations to COW and to all of Newburyport on the new and improved waterfront park. In an age of marketing via social media, we are glad to help spread the word and invite folks down to see our wonderful new park, #theWAPA.

 
Lon Hachmeister is a long-time member of Committee for an Open Waterfront (COW) and a current Board Member of ACES. He may be reached at lonehachmeister@aol.com.

ACES and its Youth Corps invite you to stay updated on environmental matters by subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the “Subscribe to Updates” link on this page. Please consider joining our community of stewards who are committed to Make Every Day Earth Day by contacting us at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. We can make a big difference together.

This educational column first appeared in The Daily News of Newburyport on June 21, 2024.

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