Designer Sidewalks

I am constantly amazed at the acceptance of the City for the deplorable condition of the sidewalks.       The general rule is that if something is terribly wrong but has been around for a very long time, even multi-generational; it’s okay!

I can see on a typical street, someone objecting to their flowers being uprooted, an old gnarled tree’s roots cut back and the sidewalk widened so pedestrians don’t get a large bordering bush in their face.    Granted there are many who simply disregard the terrible condition in front of their businesses and homes like it’s suppose to be that way.      They are so used to skipping over giant roots, upturned cement blocks and deep rutted blacktop and overall crumbling surfaces that it is second nature to them.   

But the worst part are those who feel they have to rectify the situation.      Some of course, being conscientious to the benefit of the Historic District, put in regulation historic brick.      Others go even farther and create ADA-compliant brick surfaces and according to city code of perpendicular bricks.    Then  there are the bad artists, putting in designs and mixes of cobblestone or even worse, cement and brick or the very worst, cement bricks.        Of course, the dark siders and those developers and homeowners who have no idea or care about our history put in cement.       And of course, the cheapskates put in blacktop smothering any trace of our historic neighborhoods.

 But according to the American Disabilities Act, a sidewalk needs to be of consistent surface and wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass each other.        The Newburyport Historic District fails miserably.

What we end up with is a horrible mix that any sane pedestrian will avoid and head for the streets.     That’s fine if you are a local but what about our visitors?      What about our children who consistently choose the road rather than fool with the sidewalk mess.       When children walk to school at the same time as desperate commuters trying to get to work on time; we have a terrible safety issue.

What we need is a political will to fix this mess.     A City Council that won’t accept a long-running mistake like this and will pass ordinances and policies that correct the problem.      We need a Planning Office that seeks federal and state funds (which is a long and arduous process) to pay for it.     We need the DPW that has the leadership and sense to fix the problem on an engineering side rather than an economic side.      And we need a City Council and Mayor who make it a priority.        Not excusing anyone, we need the citizens to make it a priority  and not pooh, pooh it like the Newburyport Liberator did.      It will take all of us.       Portsmouth in New Hampshire put it all together in the Live Free or Die State and got it done.       

We aught to get it done and stop relying on the pocketbooks and whim of individual property owners.

-P. Preservationist


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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