Team Haverhill wants the community to dream big, especially when it comes to ways to use Haverhill's natural resource — the Merrimack River.
The civic organization hosted its fifth annual Possible Dreams gathering Monday night at Northern Essex Community College. The event brought together more than 120 Haverhill residents to dream up new and creative uses for the river and the bridges connecting the downtown to Bradford.
"An idea by itself ... upon a piece of paper doesn't make it happen," said Team Haverhill President Alice Mann. "What we look for are words with feet attached."
As in past years, the Possible Dreams event broke participants up into discussion groups which were asked how they've used Haverhill's riverfront areas in the past, what could be done to improve them, and how to link them with the rest of the city.
Some ideas included often-repeated ones over the years such as dog parks and museums, while others considered Haverhill-focused smart phone applications, "restaurant weeks" and family-oriented attractions downtown.
Throughout the event, discussion groups mapped out their ideas on table cloths bearing an image of the downtown.
Adriana Grieff, a new Haverhill resident, said she and her husband moved here from Methuen after hearing about Haverhill's bustling nightlife without the hectic pace of Boston.
"(Haverhill's) really coming up," she said. "We were looking for a place we could just go downtown and do things."
She suggested the creation of a small theater space downtown for independent films, an attraction which would compete with Newburyport, which has a small theater.
Ben Yosua-Davis, member of The Vine spiritual group, suggested further development of parks and recreation spaces along the river and the downtown.
"It hurts for green spaces really badly," he said of the city's urban center.
Pondering ways to lure visitors to the city, Team Haverhill Vice President Eric Karlstad suggested developing easily understood maps of Haverhill.
"People new to the community don't know what's here," he said. "Everyone here assumes you know where you're going or where you are."
Over the years, the Possible Dreams events have gained traction as a "who's who" event for city politicians, community leaders and local businesses representatives, while connecting residents to a larger, civic-minded lifestyle.
Mann said the large attendance for every Possible Dreams event since their inception in 2008 shows Haverhill residents want to improve their city. Previous "possible dreams," which became realities from past events, include the single-stream recycling program and the summertime River Ruckus festival with activities along the river.
"It says to me there's a lot of hope and energy for our community," Mann said.
Nicholas Aro, a student attending UMass Boston but living in Haverhill, said he looked forward to future involvement with both Team Haverhill and his community in the coming year.
"There were a lot of interesting and positive ideas flying around," he said.