MY TURN LANGLEY PKWY - By Dr. Frank Betchart
There's still time to sign the petition - keep encouraging folks to do so!
Phase 3 construction of the Langley Parkway is suddenly being promoted again by Concord city officials, after 7 years on the back burner. In a recent article published by the Concord Monitor, Leslie Ludtke articulately exposed the sketchy cost estimates based on old (2014) information, and reviewed some of the 70 year history of the controversial N.W. bypass. She also proposed much more cost effective solutions to effectively enhance response times to medical emergencies in the community. I would like to take this opportunity to add some of my own observations and commentary to her well-written article.
The 82-page “Final Report” on Phase 3 was prepared for the City in January 2015. It references, reviews and compiles information that was collected from 2010-2013, and constitutes a glossy presentation of motor vehicle traffic studies that is heavily biased toward construction of the bypass, while minimizing the negative effects on recreational access, environmental impact, wildlife migration and unpredictable new traffic patterns and their related problems. For now, I will focus on recreational access.
The report only mentions Winant Park (page 31) in one very dismissive sentence: “However, the former roadbed between Phase 1 and Auburn Street is currently being used as a recreational trail and walking path for those living and working in the immediate area. This trail also provides access to Winant Park.”
I walk this area almost daily. In addition to encountering my neighbors regularly, I often meet new users who are discovering this oasis for the 1st time. It is not unusual to encounter Concord Hospital employees taking a walk while on break, up to 15 toddlers at a time with their care givers from the Concord Hospital Daycare, or someone who is waiting for a friend or relative that is receiving treatment at the Concord Hospital medical facilities. There are even elderly people from Granite Ledges who get out to enjoy the outdoors and in fact, Granite Ledges paid to have part of the trail graded and smoothed for their residents. There are several community fund-raising road races that use this “former roadbed” as a part of their courses. I have seen the recreational use of this beautiful area increase substantially over the 30 years I have been walking it.
The report on the proposed parkway also references “Public information meetings” (Section 1.4.2, page 13), but does not cite any of the mostly negative comments from those meetings and subsequent public hearings in City Council Chambers. Are these comments part of public record and accessible today? In my testimony at those hearings in 2014, I pointed out that there are a multitude (at least 7) trails from neighborhoods that use or cross the “former roadbed” for access to Winant Park. I also stated that the proposed recreational path on the northerly and westerly side of the bypass road would be useless to the neighborhoods from the southerly and easterly sides because users would be required to cross traffic to get to it. The only pedestrian crossings in the design are at Concord Hospital and Auburn Street.
Finally, I asserted then, as I do now, that far more of the current recreational access to Winant Park is from these neighborhood trails than from the official Winant Trail Head on Fisk Road. Access through the official trail head requires most users to drive, while access from the eastern side is highly accessible by foot. Additionally, there is very limited parking at the Fisk Road trailhead site. The City has failed to produce any data regarding pedestrian, bicycle, snowshoeing and cross-country ski traffic and the various points of access.
In conclusion, it seems that we have a new generation of City officials who either don’t know the history or choose to ignore it, in order to promote a misguided and obsolete plan for the construction of a $20 million (plus) highway that will severely restrict access to this unspoiled and heavily used enclave of outdoor recreation. The plan as currently configured will have a detrimental effect on our citizens’ enjoyment of Winant Park, the crown jewel of the Concord Park System.
Opposition to this road construction has always been robust and will continue to be. Like other regrettable errors in the history of Concord development such as the demolition of the historic Concord Railroad Depot to build a strip mall and the construction of I-93 separating downtown from the Merrimack River, building a highway that separates Concord neighborhoods from the enjoyment of public open space would be a monumental, short-sighted, and irreparable mistake.
Limited minutes and transcripts of public meetings and hearings in 2013 regarding the plans for phase 3 of the Langley Parkway. Specific dates are as follows: