Comments on Haverhill Walkway

Comments on Haverhill Walkway

September 15, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: Anne Canaday
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Haverhill Boardwalk Project
MEPA# 15238

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston has reviewed the ENF and we offer the following comments about its impacts on walkers.

The proposed project is quite small – about 450 feet long and 16-17 feet wide with wood decking for the boardwalk, totaling about 46,200 square feet (about 1.1 acres). It is part of the city’s long-range plan for a walkway loop around the downtown portion of the riverbanks, accessed via paved parking areas and public alleys that are adjacent to occupied buildings in downtown Haverhill.

When completed, the boardwalk will link to already-completed walks and become part of a 1,200 foot long walkway. It will also be part of a longer-range Merrimack River Walkway connecting to other cities. In this riverside setting, the project will include utility work, piles for boardwalk support, lighting on the boardwalk deck, benches and planting boxes and two stairways on the riverside floodwall to accommodate a future residential gangways and dock systems in the river.

The size of the project cannot reflect the extraordinary amount of diligence and patience it takes to build small increments of a larger plan. We applaud the city for its work in constructing this facility, and wish it well in further efforts to build the pathway.

We do have a few concerns that we hope can be addressed as the project moves forward.

• The design appears to call for on-land piles that raise the walkway about 7 feet above grade. Since the walkway is some 16-17 feet wide, we wonder about the space under the walkway. The space may become worrisome if it is left open for easy access, and if no alternative uses can be found for it. Is there a plan for enclosure of the space under the walkway to keep it safe and secure and to minimize maintenance problems that might arise?

• We wonder how this small portion of the path will help to encourage people to use the new and existing riverfront walkway until the full pathway can be constructed. The city should explore ways of marketing the boardwalk while the full project still lies in the future.

• Our understanding of the project is that it will connect to an existing walkway on its west end that has ramps leading toward the grade of Merrimack Street. There appears to be no such connection on the east end. We found a reference to a “Merrimack Place landward access stairway” on page 7 of the ENF, but saw no plans of how it would be sited in relation to the walkway. Will the elevated walkway – some 7’ above grade level and still elevated at Merrimack Place –have stairway or ramp access at its east end?

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this interesting and important project.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments are closed.