Public Access Key Component of New Bedford's Upper Harbor Plan

NEW BEDFORD — A draft plan for upper New Bedford Harbor revitalization proposes three new, east-west, public-access ways to the Acushnet River and a north-south walkway starting above Coggeshall Street and continuing for miles along the river to above Wood Street.
Under the plan, the public would gain access to the riverfront and walkway at both ends of the promenade or from Sawyer and Hathaway streets and Howard Avenue.
At present, there is extremely limited public access to the riverfront along the upper harbor, and no way to walk along it for any distance. A boathouse for small rowing and sailing craft is proposed for the Coggeshall Street end of the walkway, and a new park for the northern end.
Details of the plan were discussed Wednesday evening at a community meeting conducted by the city Planning Department and New Bedford Economic Development Council. Planners are seeking public comment.
Meetings will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Riverside Park near the playground, and at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 in St. Anthony’s Church Hall, 1359 Acushnet Ave.
About 20 people attended Wednesday’s meeting; public officials outnumbered residents about 2-to-1. Those attending included Ward 1 City Councilor Linda M. Morad and Ward 2 City Councilor Steven Martins. Most of the affected area is in Mr. Martins’ ward.
Derek Santos of the Economic Development Council noted the relatively sparse attendance at the meeting, held in the Brooklawn Park Community Center. “Most important to us is the quality of the exchange” of participants, Mr. Santos said, “not the quantity.”
Jennifer Gonsalves, vice chairwoman of the Planning Board, said she does not remember ever having access to the waterfront along the upper harbor, and believes the current effort “represents an incredible opportunity.”
The upper harbor waterfront is dominated by old mills. The neighborhood is delineated by the river to the east, Acushnet Avenue to the west, Wood Street to the north and Coggeshall Street to the south.
Residents who attended the meeting indicated that they are interested in having a walking path along the river, and comparisons were made to paths along waterways in Rhode Island and Maine.
Residents also expressed interest in efforts to upgrade Acushnet Avenue as a shopping and cultural center.
City Planner David Kennedy said that business district has been studied for 30 years. Mr. Kennedy said it has among its assets 300 stores with no more than a 10 percent vacancy rate, and public transportation along its length.
Ms. Morad suggested an effort to bring “design unity” to the avenue, possibly with new lights, planters and banners. Ms. Morad also represents the North End Business Association, and said making the avenue one-way deserves consideration.
Contact Joe Cohen at
July 31, 2008
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