SALEM — Now that Sgt. James Ayube II Memorial Drive has been built along the North River and long-neglected Bridge Street has been adorned with new sidewalks and streetlights, attention turns to a piece of unfinished business.
A public hearing is scheduled tonight on the state’s plan to build a new park near the base of Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects Beverly and Salem. The park is not a gift from the state, but a condition of a license obtained years ago for a larger Beverly-Salem transportation project.
It will be a small park, not much larger than a football field, and tucked away in a corner of the city. But Causeway Park, as it is being called by the state Department of Transportation, holds the promise to be a $1.4 million patch of green along the waterfront, a place to fish from a pier or just sit and watch the passing boats.
“It will be a great final touch to the whole reconstruction of Route 1A/Bridge Street,” City Planner Lynn Duncan said.
However, the project faces a few hurdles — large hurdles.
In a nutshell, money.
Asked if there is a start date for construction, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation called late yesterday with discouraging news, considering this park has been on the radar for more than a decade.
“We don’t have an answer right now,” said DOT spokesman Michael Verseckes. “The clear challenge, at this point in time, is that the project needs to be funded.”
He stressed, however, that the state is obligated to build the park.
When it is constructed, Causeway Park will be built on what is left of the old Salem-Beverly bridge, a nub of land that sticks out into harbor. It parallels Veterans Memorial Bridge and is next to The Black Lobster at Stromberg’s Cove restaurant.
For the past two years, the strip of land was used as a staging area for trucks and supplies during the reconstruction of Route 1A, which is just about complete. It was handy for construction crews, but an eyesore for neighbors.
“We’d welcome it, obviously,” Peter Kastrinakis, owner of The Black Lobster, said of the new park. “It’s a long time coming.”
The park has been talked about since the construction of Veterans Memorial Bridge more than a decade ago, Kastrinakis said, but seems to get pushed, time and again, to a back burner.
Businesses along the busy street also look forward to a park that, in addition to a small fishing pier, will have walkways, benches, trees and parking.
“A lot of people are anxious for it, especially the people down at that end,” said Rob Liani, owner of Coffee Time Bake Shop.
The Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing tonight at 6 at 120 Washington St. on wetlands issues related to the park.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.