Why should the NRA transfer its Waterfront property to the Waterfront Trust?
The COW Board outlines the reasons in a letter to the Newburyport Daily News July 3, 2015
To the Editor:
Due to a growing consensus about the need for the NRA to go out of business in the near future, there has been a lot of talk recently concerning the eventual disposition of their lands. More and more, that talk is centering on the idea of the Waterfront Trust being the only logical entity to whom to bequeath such a precious parcel. Here is why that idea is the very best solution available.
Currently, the central waterfront area is owned by two separate organizations: the Waterfront Trust and the NRA. Their acreages hopscotch in and around each other, often rendering responsibility for ordinary tasks such as mowing, plowing and trash collection in dispute. Clearly, if both properties were under single ownership, effective and cost-efficient management would be greatly simplified.
The Waterfront Trust is a legal body that should continue on - for many, many decades to come. It operates under a set of legal regulations – “The Declaration of Public Trust” – that mandates that the Trustees “hold, manage, maintain . . . conserve and utilize the ‘public trust lands’ as natural resources for use and enjoyment by the public in perpetuity”. No other potential recipient of the NRA lands is bound by any such obligation. The City, for instance, despite any potential promises made at the outset, could – at any time – decide to sell or develop that area. Former Mayor Lisa Mead once advocated locating the library on Waterfront West. Technically, the Union Studios plan could be revived. Or maybe something even worse. The City therefore would not be a reliable steward of the public’s land. And, if the City should somehow come into possession of the NRA lands, the original problems generated by “hopscotch ownership” would continue on unabated.
Additionally, the City’s parks have, historically, not fared too well. It is understood locally that those parklands that are managed by Trusts and Associations seem to do much better. Atkinson Common and Hale Park are two examples. In a recent article which appeared in the “Boston Globe” it was stated that state parks are dealing with the same phenomenon – that the parks that fare best are those which are funded by private money. Indeed, Waterfront Park, owned and managed by the Waterfront Trust, is widely considered to be one of the best-run, most meticulously maintained and most heavily-utilized and beloved parks in the City.
When the Waterfront Trust comes into possession of the NRA lands, then the entire central waterfront will be owned by one entity - so all squabbling over organizational details will be eliminated. With the revenue from all of the waterfront parking going to the Trust, along with all of the docking fees, various leasing incomes and other receipts, there will be ample income with which to maintain and improve the park – for us all. And the waterfront will remain open and free to everyone – forever.
The Board of Directors of the Committee for an Open Waterfront, Inc.
Elizabeth G. Heath, President/Secretary
Lon Hachmeister, Vice President
Nick Metcalf, Treasurer
Joanie Purinton, Member
Sandra Small, Member
What is the Waterfront Trust?
The Newburyport Waterfront Trust manages Waterfront Park, the 4.4 acre park in the center of Newburyport’s downtown waterfront. The Park includes six public wayes to the water from the heart of downtown to a 1100 foot boardwalk along the Merrimac River, a sculpture park, and a large grass area fronting on the Merrimac River.
In January 1991, the Newburyport Waterfront Trust was established to hold, manage, maintain, conserve, and utilize the land for the use and enjoyment of the citizens of Newburyport, Newbury, and West Newbury in perpetuity, allowing the public free access forever.
The Trust is administered by five Trustees appointed by the Mayor of Newburyport with the approval of the City Council. Trustees can serve a maximum of two, five-year terms. Under the Declaration of Trust, the Trustees have absolute control of the Trust property subject to certain restrictions, including the duty to keep the public ways and Boardwalk “open” for the benefit of the general public. The City of Newburyport is responsible for funding the maintenance of the Trust property. Using income generated from leases, rentals, use permits, and donor gifts, the Trust has assumed primary responsibility for park maintenance and contracts this work to a commercial landscape company. The City’s Department of Public Services provides valuable supplemental services for the Trust properties, including trash removal, tree work, and snow plowing.
The Trust employs a part-time Park Manager to coordinate the maintenance activities and provide liaison between the Trustees, park users, the Department of Public Services, the landscaping contractor, and various volunteer groups who help from time to time.
How are Newburyport's parks faring under city management?
Read the latest Parks Inspection Report here: