hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 1, 2012

Possible Dreams: Marketing the river

Community's ideas include theater, parks

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.

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