Underwater and Rising Tides

Allies and Partners

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.

by Kathleen Brittan

After a soggy Saturday and a rain delay, Sunday morning, April 21 was sunny and clear. Vivid colored lines and graphics, created by local artist and activist Megan Chiango, adorned Cashman Park. Bright future high-tide marks dressed the public boat launch pillars. and orange-clad people started to gather.

Storm Surge, a local non-profit dedicated to tackling climate change through science-based outreach, education, and community events, exhibited “Rising Tides: Visualizing Change to the Cashman Park Shoreline,” fittingly to coincide with the international Earth Day celebration and ACES’ Earth Day event.

The interactive exhibit demonstrated the challenges of sea level rise and its effects by using colored bands on the boat launch pillars that mark projected future high-tide levels for the years 2030, 2050, and 2070, based on State of Massachusetts estimates.

As further demonstration, colored chalk lines on the ground represented how far high-tide levels would reach into the park. These were laid according to a map generated by the Woods Hole Group, vividly illustrating the encroaching waters’ reach into the park and abutting neighborhoods.

Storm Surge’s call to the community was met with a robust turnout. Gathering community members stood along the 2050 high-tide line to demonstrate the impact of rising tides which was captured in an aerial video produced by Dr. Stephen Young, Jason Risberg, and members of the Salem State University drone class and geography club.

Some attendees expressed surprise at the extent to which the predicted twice-daily tides could inundate the park, a space many know and cherish. Others expressed deep concerns that, based on their observations of recent flood events, the future might be worse than projected. Participants actively engaged in discussing what options might be available to mitigate the rising waters in the future. The event was successful at raising awareness and encouraging discussion.

Cashman Park, Newburyport’s largest and most used recreational hub situated along the scenic Merrimack River, stands on the frontlines against the impacts of a changing climate. Facing threats from rising sea levels, the “Rising Tides” exhibit dramatically demonstrated the need for a pro-active climate adaptation strategy.

Sea levels are rising and it’s up to us to start the conversation about what that means for places we love, like Cashman Park. “Rising Tides” is a call to action for every Newburyport resident who enjoys our beautiful park, cares about the environment, or just wants to learn more about what climate change means for us and our city, both now and in the future. While the group markings have faded, the colored bands and informational banner near the boat launch will remain in place through the end of September.

“Rising Tides” also serves as a catalyst for the community to join the conversation. Learn more at and share your ideas at upcoming meetings. Visit the city’s website and register to attend one of the community forums on climate action next month. Contact your council members and parks commission and encourage conversation and planning for the future of Cashman Park.

This project was a collaborative community effort that included the participation and support of the following organizations and people that made “Rising Tides” possible:

The City of Newburyport, including the Resiliency Committee, the city’s engineer, the Parks Commission, the Harbormaster, and Newburyport Youth Soccer provided invaluable support, thus ensuring a smooth and successful event.

Salem State University provided outstanding aerial video work, the Woods Hole Group gave their mapping support, and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game approved the flood markers on the boat launch.

ACES Youth Corps and team members invite you to stay updated on climate and environmental matters by subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the “Subscribe to Updates” link on this website – Please consider joining our community of environmentally minded neighbors and let us know your thoughts or ideas to help Make Every Day Earth Day at

Together we can make a BIG difference.

This column first appeared in the Daily News of Newburyport on May 3, 2024.

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Kathleen Brittan

Kathleen Brittan serves as a volunteer with Storm Surge. She has been a resident of
Newburyport since 2001 and deeply appreciates joining with other members of our beautiful
city to preserve and protect our natural resources and support our cultural assets. Her career
serving nonprofit organizations has focused on the arts, higher education, special education,
and science.

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