The city’s new state senator is promising to help develop and promote Haverhill’s greatest natural asset and potential tourist attraction: The Merrimack River.
And she’s in a position to do it.
Kathleen O’Connor Ives, who won a four-way race in November to replace former Sen. Steve Baddour of Methuen in the 1st Essex District, has been named chairman of the House Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.
“My job is to get versed in any grants that are out there to help Haverhill and my other communities develop assets along the river,” O’Connor Ives said. “Haverhill is on the cutting edge as far as what it is doing to attract visitors downtown with great restaurants and improving public access to the river with its developing rail trail and boardwalk. I’ll be working to help leverage those assets into more improvements and projects.”
Her district also includes Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Merrimac, Methuen and about half of North Andover.
O’Connor Ives said improving public transportation is another component of tourism that she will focus on.
“Growing the commuter rail and keeping weekend service is key,” she said.
The senator said she is familiar and impressed with many aspects of the city, including downtown’s historic Queen Anne architecture.
“When people visit and get to know Haverhill, they often want to go back and even move there,” she said. “It’s unique, not only for its historic architecture, but also its variety of recreational and cultural opportunities and its excellent and affordable housing stock.”
The city has focused on the Merrimack River to spur economic growth and tourism. The Bradford Rail Trail provides people a place to walk and bike along the south side of the river. On the downtown side, a boardwalk allows people to walk at the river’s edge, while docks give boaters a place to tie up and visit restaurants and shops. The River Ruckus and other festivals lure visitors to the river, while marinas have popped up along the waterway.