It has been said that patience is a virtue. If so, the residents of the west district have experienced many opportunities to build their character. Thankfully, their patience is being rewarded as numerous projects long in the making are finally becoming a reality this year. Ground was broken on the Methuen rotary project this past summer, there are plans to begin the boat ramp at the old Bea’s Restaurant site this October, and a commission will soon be appointed by the Mayor to oversee the revitalization of Forest Lake. Each project has been long in the making and would not be possible without the relentless advocacy and patience of the residents of these areas.
The Methuen rotary project is by now familiar to almost all. With a crash rate 7 ½ times the state average, it has long held the dubious distinction as one of the most dangerous intersections in the region. To remedy this, construction is now underway to replace the rotary with a partial clover leaf design, completely eliminating the roundabout. This project has been on the state’s radar for years and dozens of community meetings with MassDOT and city officials throughout that time helped keep the pressure on to get the project off the ground. The affects of the project stretch beyond reducing an unacceptable crash rate as its completion will benefit the businesses along the Rte. 110 corridor as well. However, a long road does lie ahead (no pun intended). Only still in the beginning phase, traffic on I-93 has already greatly increased- an unfortunate preview of what the next four years undoubtedly hold. In the long run, however, the improvements with benefit all who live and work on and around 113 & 110.
The second project getting underway is the park/boat ramp at the former location of Bea’s Restaurant on Riverside Drive. This project has been so long in the making it almost felt like a part of the neighborhood lore. To the joy of many, earlier this year the Mayor announced that the state had adopted and would fund the project, which is now being called “The Riverside Area Conservation Project”. The project will include both a boat ramp and a launching area for kayaks and canoes. Slated to be completed by spring of 2015, this project will open up a section of the Merrimack River previously inaccessible to the public from Methuen banks. After a lengthy wait, the timing of the project is quite ideal. Less than ideal would have been a situation where drivers transporting canoes and kayaks passed through one of the most accident prone intersections in the entire state. Now, while the two projects do not perfectly coincide, once finished, the former will certainly compliment the latter.
The third project most recently announced is the revitalization of Forest Lake. Truly one of Methuen’s most under appreciated assets, the “residents only” beach and picnic area has been slowly deteriorating over the years. As someone who grew up spending many summer days fishing and swimming at the lake, I was pleased to hear there is a desire among others to enhance the Forest Lake experience. Underutilized for many years, the opportunity to turn Forest Lake back into a Methuen summer destination could be within reach. The biggest question moving forward is likely whether or not the city is able to secure any grant money from the state. Available funds will dictate the speed at which this project progresses and it would be favorable for the tax payers if, like the former two projects, this undertaking was state funded and did not directly cost them money.
These projects represent more than just the beautification of a specific area of town, but represent efforts to improve the quality of life of those that live and visit these areas. Safer, quicker travel and new and more appealing destinations are all realistic accomplishments. Many years in the making, these projects should be celebrated as should the residents who fought and continue to fight for them and for their community. If it is true that patience is a virtue, the folks in the west district are certainly a virtuous bunch.
Daniel Grayton is currently serving as a Councilor at-Large in the City of Methuen. He can be reached at DanielGrayton@gmail.com