Conservation Commission to Hear Plans for 35-Acre East Parish Parcels

Map of parcels under review by the Haverhill Conservation Commission.

When the Haverhill Conservation Commission meets tonight, a Middle Road resident hopes citizens from all over the city will be there to shape plans for 35-acres of former farmland in the city’s East Parish.

Maria R. Humphrey, of 386 Middle Road, is concerned development of four parcels off Kenoza Street and Middle Road will forever close off a different kind of economic development opportunity for the city. The property, belonging to the family of the late Deputy Defense Secretary Donald J. Atwood, is before the Conservation Commission to determine where development will not be permitted because of wetlands. Humphrey describes the properties.

“It is a particularly sensitive area of Haverhill’s watershed district, on lands that were formerly agricultural, adjacent to wetlands,” she said.

Humphrey, a Haverhill resident for the past 18 years, said the city will bear the long-term costs of maintaining water and sewer and educating children who may one day lived in a housing subdivision. More recent development of other parcels of the Atwood property suggests what kind of housing is likely to emerge on the land, she said.

“They really do not fit the land nor do they necessarily blend in with other homes that have been built along the Middle Road, Millvale corridor.”

She proposes instead the city consider a longer-term vision for the neighborhood, saying a natural area could create “eco-tourism” and feed traffic to now-empty, downtown storefronts.

“The East Parish can become a magnet to bring tourists—people who are interested especially in outdoor recreation—to Haverhill and then channel them into the businesses downtown—the restaurants, shops, bars that desperately need the business in order to survive.”

Humphrey, who once worked as a consultant to the Army Corps of Engineering, envisions a loop, where people from Boston take the train to Newburyport, take a riverboat to Haverhill, and return to Boston from Haverhill’s train station.

The Conservation Commission meets at 7 p.m., in the City Council office, room 204 in City Hall.