Councilor O’Brien’s objections to removing the name Battis Grove from the Clipper City Rail Trail & Harborwalk Park is well-founded.
The City has suffered much from the disrespect of our ancient and recent past. I was around when the plan and pressures were on to build a large hotel and conference center on the waterfront. It was the passion of the proponents of a park and open space that saved Newburyport from a tragic mistake. I still remember John Battis jumping up and down like a crazy person on the High School auditorium platform. His passion and zeal along with the other supporters were up against the Mayor, the Planning Board, the Roger Foster "machine", the consultants and all the support architects and engineers working for a hotel and conference center.
People like that are told to shut up and go away but we can see today the results of their efforts. FINALLY, TODAY, the City recognizes that a park IS the best plan for the waterfront. If the citizens had not worked hard for this day, we would have had a large hotel and buildings all the way to the river. As hoteliers predicted then and still predict today, it would have been a failure. The hotel would have been converted to pricy condominiums and the city would have lost out. The chance for a park would have been an impossibility robbing us all for generations.
These citizens were not "monied" and back when the idea of turning the rail line into a park and trail was just a dream; John Battis didn’t let such an inconvenience become a roadblock. He created his park which became a North End favorite. It is this kind of "stuff" that Mayor Holdaday was talking about when speaking of volunteerism. "Volunteer" was not referring to Stick-in-the-Mud’s standing on one foot waiting to be "funded". A true volunteer rolls up his sleeves, figures out how to proceed and keeps pressing on.
John Battis’ efforts transformed the city. He is not a "famous" person and "glory" was never sought. Yet, he is a "symbol" and a lesson on volunteerism.
We should keep the park as an inspiration to us all.
"Do what you can, where you are, with what you have!"