Christine Madore Answers Our Questions
Collins Cove Improvements, Bridge Street Neck Zoning, Historic Cemeteries
Question 1 – Collins Cove, the cove itself and the park, is a great neighborhood and city asset. Are there any plans to direct funding and resources there for park improvements, to encourage boating use, and for flood mitigation?
Collins Cove has been the beneficiary of a few Coastal Zone Management (CZM) state grants in the past few years to restore and strengthen the shoreline, thanks to the work of our Planning and Community Development staff. An ongoing “Living Shoreline” project began this summer, using grant funds to plant native salt marsh plants along the shore as a natural barrier against flooding. This project is an approach to coastal resiliency that is considerate of the area’s historical and environmental context. There is a great website that has interactive information and updates on this project at http://bit.ly/cclivingshoreline.
The Living Shoreline project will preserve a small launching pad at the Cove for passive recreation such as kayaking, paddle boarding, or canoeing. I believe the shallow depth and tidal patterns of the Cove is not suitable for motorized boat activity close to the shoreline.
Salem also received another $300,000 MassTrails grant this summer from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to construct the Harbor Connector Path that will extend the existing multiuse path from Collins Cove to the Derby Street neighborhood and other major waterfront destinations. We must do as much as we can to pursue opportunities to expand our bicycle networks so folks can easily leave their car at home and reduce their carbon footprint.
While there are no near-term investment plans for Collins Cove Park, I always welcome dialogue on how we can better leverage Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for big and small improvements to all our public parks. These conversations are especially critical this year following the significant increase of CPA trust fund and match of 30% in the FY20 state budget that was signed off by the Governor this summer.
Question 2 – Bridge Street from Webb Street to the Veterans Memorial Bridge has been undergoing a lot of small privately financed development over the last couple of years. The zoning on that stretch of road is a seemingly hodge-dodge mix that includes most of our defined zoning uses. Is this zoning a benefit or detriment to the neighborhood and to the the city?
Like many of our historic neighborhoods, most homes and businesses along Bridge Street Neck were built well before the introduction of zoning. The charm and character of BSN’s existing homes simply cannot be replicated under the neighborhood’s current zoning.
Over the past two years, I have consistently heard BSN residents’ concerns about pressures of development and the rapid loss of their neighborhood’s character. The last time BSN went through a visioning process was 10 years ago during a depressed real estate market. Just last week, the City’s planning staff led a hands-on visioning exercise for BSN’s residents to update that vision and identify community values they would like to preserve, such as more neighborhood retail, restaurants, and homes for middle income families. It was great to see neighbors take ownership of that process. The feedback will help inform City staff in preparing recommendations for proactive zoning measures that will more clearly articulate the neighborhood’s vision.
Further, we must get serious about preserving the remaining architectural integrity of Bridge Street Neck by beginning the process to designate the neighborhood a Local Historic District. This designation will give the Salem Historical Commission jurisdiction over any development, renovation, or demolition of structures in the neighborhood.
Question 3 – Ward 2 is home to three of our four historic cemeteries, three of which are open to the public year round. These cemeteries have been poorly maintained over the years. What can, or should the city do in order to properly care for these historic spots and preserve them for the future?
It’s amazing to think that many of Salem’s famous historical figures are buried only steps away from our homes in Ward 2. In addition to serving as eternal resting grounds of our citizens, Salem’s cemeteries are also physical archives of life and death. Currently, we take reactive and piecemeal approaches to protecting and maintaining these historical assets. The lack of attention to our cemeteries have spurred formation of many volunteer groups like the most recent Friends of Broad Street Cemetery to step up as caretakers of these burial grounds. These groups have been wonderful stewards of our cemeteries.
We need to take lessons from towns like Concord by preparing a cemetery master plan to clearly and intentionally define our community’s vision for all our cemeteries. A master plan process will help identify existing threats and challenges, generate dialogue and awareness around the significance of these historical assets, and create a long-term plan for maintenance and improvements. Our cemeteries have been around for nearly four hundred years. We must give them the care and attention that they deserve so they can be around to tell their stories for the next four hundred years.