|The corridor toward Portsmouth|
|The tracks are now gone|
|The pathway ends at Route 33, Portsmouth, near the graveyard|
Last night Mad Dog attended a Greenway meeting withpeople who have worked on the project which would unite Hampton with Portsmouth using the now abandoned rail road bed, which runs from Boston to Portsmouth, through Seabrook, past the nuclear power plant, past Foss manufacturing, behind Depot Square, behind the Hampton Hannaford's and on past the old railroad station in North Hampton and on to Rye and Portsmouth.
Most of the people there were there because they carried in their hearts the burning desire this would become the one protected corridor where kids and families could ride bikes, push strollers completely protected from cars, a safe place where only muscle power propels healthy bodies.
Because the owner of the land, a company called "Pan Am, " has apparently decided it wants to sell this track to the state of New Hampshire, and because the state could "buy" it with little out of pocket expense, the dollars mostly coming from Federal programs to promote "green" alternatives and from highway tolls, the prospects for the transfer of this corridor from private to state hands looks promising.
There have been euphoric letters to the editor in the Portsmouth Herald about how wonderful a protected space would be for families and bikers--a unique resource in a pedestrian unfriendly Seacoast, where the car and the motorcycle are king.
But then Fred Rice, a House of Representatives Republican, began his 10 minute monologue about his vision for the former railroad bed : He would make it a one or two lane motorway, with a little bike path running alongside the road. As he has said, before, this would reduce air pollution, because it would diminish the "congestion" on Route 1 and all those idling motors and their exhausts would vanish, and it would create a commercial corridor with stores springing up all along the roadway.
Fred Rice would pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
Fred Rice knows the best use of land on the Seacoast to to build roads, because roads are...GOOD! And roadside commerce is inevitable.
Mad Dog objected that:
A/ Building new roads does not diminish traffic congestion, especially if you are talking about a two lane road. Building more roads just attracts more cars and, presto, your new road is congested.
B/ Reducing air pollution by building more motorways as opposed to providing a path for bicycles is a very strange notion. Are cars less polluting than bicycles? Does Mr. Rice have any studies for that one?
C/What makes Mr. Rice think there is enough business to support new stores along his motorway? Is Route 1 such a successful corridor we need more asphalt for even more stores? Mad Dog sees enough boarded up stores along Route 1 to make him question Fred's happy picture of a booming commercial corridor along a smaller road when the big road isn't doing all that well.
Mr. Rice does not answer such questions. He simply continues talking, as if simply wishing will make it all come true. He is a man mired in the discredited certainties of the 1950's when building roads was a pathway to prosperity. Fred Rice is still back in the 20th century, with Eisenhower, wanting to lay down as much concrete as possible across the entire country.
The folks who want that land transferred from private to public hands grew nervous: At least Mr. Rice wanted that same goal to be achieved--the goal of transferring the land to public ownership. The planners shut down the dog fight. Let's just get the land first. We can argue about what to do with it later.
The problem is, Mr. Rice has nothing else to do but go to government committee meetings, so he would stand a pretty good chance, by simple persistence, to push his idea of a nice new motorway between Hampton and Portsmouth through all the committees in Concord, past all the commissions--Fred Rice will attend every meeting while the rest of us are at work, and before we know it, we'll have the Fred Rice parkway to reduce air pollution through the wonders of the combustible engine.
Let us hope, if the transfer occurs, we can get Democrats from Hampton to Portsmouth, out on that trail, from which the railroad tracks have now been removed. Once people start walking it, riding their bicycles on it, the possibilities may kindle enough ardor among young families, they'll actually organize to prevent the transformation of a potential parkland into another motorway.