Navigating downtown Haverhill can be a problem for visitors.
Parking is hard to find and the traffic can be congested at certain times of the day. Later this summer however, there will be a way to visit the downtown without having to worry about busy streets and packed parking areas.
City officials said four new docks and one gangway ramp will be installed by the end of the summer, in time for use by people who go boating in the early fall. The docks will allow boats traveling up and down the Merrimack River to stop and visit downtown restaurants, lounges and shops.
"This will allow boats to come down from Newburyport and Amesbury and for people to be able to grab a bite to eat and see the city," said Andrew Herlihy, assistant director of community development for Haverhill who has been directing the project.
The docks will be in the water during boating season, but a permanent steel structure, which will extend along the wall beneath the boardwalk on Washington Street, is also being built. The four docks and the gangway will be stored at Kazmiera Marina on Coffin Avenue during the non-boating season.
The majority of the money for the project came from a state grant, which covers $282,064 of the $414,800 for the project. The remainder of the money came from the waterways account, dock fees boaters pay and city money. The money comes from the same grant which installed bathrooms and maintenance sheds at Swasey, Riverside and Cashman parks.
To receive money for the docks, the city was required to make the docks accessible to handicapped people.
The permanent ramp structure fulfills that requirement and will be a major change to the aesthetics of the Riverfront Park area.
"When (the ramp structure) is being put up, people are going to be talking about it," Herlihy said. "This is going to be one of the first things that people see when coming in the city from the train on the railroad bridge."
The steel ramp is 120 feet long and will stretch from the existing steps of the boardwalk behind the Tap restaurant and upriver toward the railroad bridge. Linking to the steel structure will be an aluminum gangway leading to the four docks. The docks will be able to support one major commercial vessel as well as several smaller private boats. Each of the docks are 12 feet wide and 96 feet long.
The docks are expected to bring more visitors to the downtown, something that business owners are on board with.
"I'm overjoyed," said John Fahimian, who owns the Tap restaurant. "Just having the docks there makes the city more trendy. It's good for business and makes the city more alive.''
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