hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

June 20, 2013

City right to imitate Newburyport's bike path network

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Haverhill leaders have long said they admire the success of Newburyport.

They’ve said they hope to gain the same success as the Clipper City by using the natural resource they share, the Merrimack River.

Newburyport has centerpieced the river and neighboring downtown to develop a tourist attraction, a place where people come to spend money — dining, drinking, buying crafts and art work.

Haverhill shared that same vision of a downtown attraction several years ago, and its has finally come to fruition. People from Haverhill and elsewhere come to the city center’s “Restaurant Row’’ to enjoy a variety of restaurants and bars, as well as check out what local shops have to offer.

And even though Haverhill’s downtown portion of the river is largely hidden behind buildings along Washington and Merrimack streets, the city is making use of the waterway where possible. The boardwalk behind the area of The Tap restaurant and bar gives people a place to walk along the river. There is also the Rail Trail on the Bradford side of the river, opposite downtown, which offers visitors a longer stretch overlooking the Merrimack where they can walk or ride bikes.

In addition, the city has new zoning that encourages owners of downtown buildings along the river to use them in ways that open up the waterway to public use, perhaps by putting decks on the backs of the buildings.

It all adds up to a solid effort by the city to emulate the city at the eastern end of the river, Newburyport, which has successfully marketed its downtown and riverfront.

Copying a neighboring city is a good move if it brings a stronger economy and reputation.

Now, Haverhill is looking at at another way to imitate the Clipper City. Newburyport has long had a network of bicycle paths or lanes along some of its most scenic roads. The paths encourage locals and visitors to pedal their way through the community in the warmer months to take in the sights. It’s a simple arrangement — lanes large enough to accommodate bikes are marked off at the edge of the road.

With that bike traffic comes the possibility that cyclers will stop for lunch or an ice cream cone at a local shop they happen upon. Maybe a restaurant or shop will catch their eye as they pedal along, and they will return there sometime later. Or maybe they will just simply have a good time taking in the scenery.

In the last couple of years, Haverhill has added its own bicycle paths. They are modest, only about four miles worth, but it’s a start. City leaders want to add more of the paths.

That too is a wise move. In fact, with Haverhill’s nearly 35 square miles, much of it rural and scenic, the city could develop one of the region’s largest bike path networks.

Just like Newburyport, Haverhill could become a model for other communities.