Is This a Solution For March’s Hill?

Wednesday July 27, 2022

Stewart Lytle / The Town Common. A jump built by the young bikers.

NEWBURYPORT – Parks Commission chair Ted Boretti last week offered a series of proposals to resolve the on-going battle between youths who ride bikes and build jumps and the residents who live next to the wooded, section of March’s Hill. 

In the first meeting since Mayor Sean Reardon eliminated the parks director position, Boretti proposed that the city create an accurate, current map of the bike trails in the west section of the 17-acre park near the Newbury town line.

He also proposed that the city hire an expert to determine if the jumps the young bike riders have built are safe and eliminate at least one of the trails close to the neighbors’ homes. The chairman suggested that the young bikers might be asked to help restore the area where they have expanded trails and removed trees. 

No official action was taken last week. 

Following the elimination of the parks director position, maintenance of parks was transferred to the Department of Public Works. Commissioners said they were trying to work out the details of that change.

Boretti, hoping to increase communication between the two sides, offered to have the neighbors walk the area with him and other parks commission members to see the trails, ramps and jumps the young riders have built. 

Paul Swindlehurst, another commission member, proposed that the commission establish rules for the young bikers to follow, including being respectful, cutting down no more trees and building no new trails and jumps.

The Parks Commission has posted signs that outline rules against destroying city property, but those signs were torn down.

Three neighbors, who attended the meeting, said they were encouraged by the proposals, although Karen Clagett, who has lived next to March’s Hill for 35 years, said she doubted that the young riders would follow the rules unless the city provides adult supervision.

Swindlehurst asked how Clagett proposed that the city provide adult supervision 18 hours a day during the summer. He also said the neighbors would have to call the police if the bikers break the rules since the Parks Commission has no authority to enforce the rules. 

There were no middle school and high school bikers or their parents attending the meeting.

Charles Griffin, another commissioner, said he had heard that barbed wire had been placed on some trails to keep the bikers off. The neighbors said they walk often through that section of the park and had never seen any barbed wire fencing. 

Boretti also proposed that the city hire a consultant to identify other sites for the proposed pump track, which avid biker and student Dante Chabot has proposed. The track, a series of hills and turns that allow bikers to propel their bikes forward with minimal effort, would be built on land near a water tank owned in part by the Parks Department and by the Water Department. 

Chabot’s plan, which would not replace the trails and jumps in the woods, was praised by commissioners, but Swindlehurst called it “the right idea, the wrong place.”

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