To the editor: 

On July 8, with three weeks left in the legislative session, our state senator and state representative filed a home-rule petition designed to make legal the theft of parkland recreation property from the people of Beverly. The petition in question, proposed at the behest of our mayor and City Council, would remove from deeded restrictions the former McDonald’s site at the base of the Beverly-Salem bridge. Our city leaders have been assuring us that there is no bar to them leasing this Park and Recreation property for 40 years to a for-profit 350-seat restaurant operation. Lo and behold now they see the need to circumvent the law under the cover of coronavirus and summer distractions in order to complete their shady dealings.

The property in question is the city’s last piece of public waterfront and presently provides parking for hundreds of boaters, fishermen, lobstermen and everyday families that want to catch the breeze and view the harbor. It can be entered only at its present driveway, mere feet from the base of the bridge. It is apparent that the only way for diners to exit the property will be to turn right on Water Street and proceed to Lothrop, thence to wend their way back through the neighborhoods as best they can to get back to Cabot. The city makes vague claims about a redesign of the intersection at the base of the bridge, but short of even further traffic snarls from light changes, there is no solution to redirect traffic exiting the site.

Then there is the parking issue. If you cross the bridge on any afternoon in the summer you will see the lot filled with recreational boaters’ cars. This means that the neighborhood can expect parking issues as boaters and diners compete for space. The restaurant developers have proposed shuttling their employees from a remote lot to ease the parking situation. I’m sure that promise will be kept. NOT.

The city bought the property with the help of $483,600  in the form of an urban self-help grant. The grant stipulates that if the city wants to remove the property from Article 97 protection, it must compensate the state with park and recreation land of similar value as well as return the $483,600 the state provided. There also would have to be a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature in order to do this. The home-rule petition is designed to remove these obligations and turn our park into a 350-seat pleasure dome for those who can afford a $36 tenderloin steak, which is the price at their Swampscott location.

Let me close with a quote from a letter that then state Rep. Michael P. Cahill wrote in support of the acquisition of 1 Water St.: “Our waterfront was once an ideal place for a leisurely stroll along the docks, to cast a fishing line, to launch a family outing, or to eat a picnic lunch while watching the boats come and go. With the support of a DEM urban self-help grant, these scenes could once again be possible in Beverly.” Something has changed our mayor’s idea of recreation. Please contact the mayor, your city councilor, state Rep. Parisella and state Sen. Lovely to let them know that we are watching as they steal parkland from the people.

Peter Willwerth

Beverly

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