Haverhill Groups Launch Ambitious Merrimack River Plans; Slavits Install New Upriver Buoys

One of six new upriver buoys near Harbor Place. (Courtesy photographs.)

Part 1 of 2 (Read Part 2 here)

Tim Slavit; his sons Tim Jr. and Ryan; and Bob Brandolini put the buoys in the river last Friday. (Courtesy photographs.)

Big plans are steaming ahead for the Merrimack River in downtown Haverhill with new channel markers, kayak rentals, additional public docks and a new excursion riverboat.

The activities are coming in time to help local restaurants emerge from their pandemic-forced slumber and attract boaters downtown for the opening of Barrio restaurant and Salvatore Lupoli’s “The Heights” project. Guiding the focus on the Merrimack is a private-public partnership led by the city’s Harbor Commission, Greater Haverhill Foundation’s River Access Committee and Tim Slavit, whose legendary father, Capt. William J. “Red” Slavit, served many years as harbormaster. Slavit tells WHAV he wants to bring back the same river enthusiasm his father imparted to generations.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve been watching the Haverhill waterfront go to sleep. We wanted to get more traffic into the downtown, more boating traffic,” he explains.

Those goals are consistent with Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President Dougan Sherwood’s vision.

“I believe the river is, arguably, our greatest resource next to these beautiful 19th century buildings that we have in downtown Haverhill. Activating this river is part of our strategy to really help grow the community in Haverhill and to get more people to come and really understand how special this place is,” Sherwood adds.

Just this past weekend, Slavit, his sons Tim Jr. and Ryan along with Bob Brandolini, resolved a long-running navigation problem that discouraged some boaters from taking advantage of the downtown. Sherwood explains the U.S. Coast Guard puts in channel markers only from Plum Island to the Basiliere Bridge in Haverhill. Since private aids to navigation are allowed, the Slavit team put in six numbered buoys—three red and three green—from the Basiliere Bridge to the Boston and Maine train bridge.

Encouraged by Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Slavit says, it took him six months of paperwork to win approvals. Like his dad was known to do, Slavit, relays the history of this part of the Merrimack.

“The river was dredged in 1938—the last time for that section—and there was a buoy in that area up until 1941. After all these years—my father was there when they dredged the river—and we knew where the channel was and there is seven feet of water at mean low water.”

He says the Coast Guard will add the buoys to its charts and on notices to mariners. Next up, Slavit says, is the installation of additional docks at both the public docks on Washington Street and city-owned boat ramps on Ferry Street on the other side of the river; kayak rentals and a river excursion boat.

Tomorrow, WHAV continues this story with a look at the crafts that will soon be hitting the water.

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