Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tyngsboro(ugh) builds riverfront park; vows to keep out outsiders

I'm about to vent, but I'm going somewhere with this, promise.

Growing up in the fair metropolis of Tyngsboro, I learned early on what it meant to be part of a regional economy. If you want to go shopping, you can't do that in town because there's very little land zoned for it. If you want a job, you need to leave town because they won't zone for it. The school system is decent but is by no means excellent, so I never went to it (although Notre Dame was in town, and I did go there). If we wanted to go to the library, we left to either Westford or occasionally Lowell where they had more than two rooms worth of books. If we wanted public recreation, well... T-Burro didn't really believe in that, either. Once or twice we went to the beach at Lake Mascuppic, I be fair. However, I certainly went sledding at Shedd Park more often than that, or down to Wyman's Beach in Westford to swim or skate.

In other words, people tend to move to Tyngsboro because it's a nice, safe, conveniently located, cheaper place to throw up a home and populate it with beds, not because it has what you would call the amenities on which a community is built. It's not a bad town for kids. I had fun in youth soccer and Boy Scouts was one of the most valuable experiences of my life - which I spent with kids who are now current and former selectmen as well as others who have remained active in the town. However, I never caught the Tyngsboro bug, and now, I'm even less likely to ever do so (I'm getting there!)

Enter the 21st century, and those of us who recall when Tyngsboro Center had a town hall, a library, a small grocer, a church, and a school are now laughing hysterically at the Master Plan, which claims to want Tyngsboro to have a center. Too bad they spent the last 25 years demolishing the one they had! It's almost like they realized people are drawn to towns like Westford or Groton over Tyngsboro because they have character! Tyngsboro, on the other hand, had two strip clubs and a dirt road townies lovingly call "bum road". Today's Tyngsboro Center has enough abandoned buildings clustered along both banks of the river such that any superiority complex they might hold over the Mill City should be long gone. They are chanting the bike lane mantra without realizing that the entire western half of the town has the same number of neighborhood stores as it has sidewalks: zero. There is no safe place to walk, and nowhere to bike to. I swear, it's safer to walk through the worst parts of Lowell at midnight with a $100 bill hanging out of your cap than it would be to try to walk down a street in Tyngsboro at the same time. In the former, you're likely to get mugged. In the latter, you're guaranteed to get run over. In the former, it's likely there is somewhere for you to go, in the latter, it'll be miles before you hit something other than another house. Lowell has street lights, Tyngsboro decided that if people wanted them, they'd have to "adopt" them because a town with so little billable property per length of street frontage finds it hard to afford infrastructure.

So, what am I on about? Tyngsboro, a few years ago, decided to attempt to upclass the "bad" or "Dracut" side of the river by replacing a trailer park - where people were living - with a passive recreation park with access to the Merrimack River. Hundreds of thousands of CPA dollars later, they have what I bet is a nice park along a nice little bend in the river. Recently, it opened. However, as the link says, the town is threatening to tow or fine out-of-towners for visiting.

Excuse me. I spent 20 years in town. My family paid very high taxes for not a whole lot of services that whole time. I was in town Scouts and helped with the Eagle project to clean up the area around Wannalancit's Rock...a newer cleanup of which just hit the paper last week. I am an upstanding, active citizen. And because my driver's license says that oh-so-unwelcome city of Lowell on it, I'm not allowed? As I said, most things you would consider "public" goods, Tyngsboro fails to provide. It is one of the biggest reasons I decided to make Lowell my adopted home: it's actually a place. This decision on Tyngsborough's part clearly angered many people who replied to The Sun article as well on the same grounds. Tyngsboro is not nearly special enough to have a Resident's Only access point to the river. This doesn't call for Civil Disobedience, but it does call for anger...and pity.

It just continues to enforce that they just don't get it up there. They don't get what it means to be a community, what it means to be a proud municipality. That is part of why they will continue to be one of the least respected towns in the region, and why they'll never catch up to (pinkies out) Westford and Groton on the prestige scale.

Ok, done! Thank you.


  1. I hadn't read about this previously, but you are right on the money. Creating a "public" park that's semi-private is the surest way to kill it--ESPECIALLY in a town where everything else conditions the residents to remain in their little hermetically sealed bedroom farms, aka houses the moment they get home from work.