Editorial: A more inviting view of Concord
Some of the problems faced by Concord are perennial, frustrating and seemingly impossible to remedy. Nothing, for example, will bring back the grand railroad station misguidedly demolished a half-century ago. Something someday might lead to the relocation of the interstate highway misguidedly sited so it cuts Concord off from its river, but we can’t fathom what that something would be. And despite several decades of talk, little has been done to make the view of downtown Concord from Interstate 93 more attractive.
That last problem might just be on its way out.
This week, Concord’s New Front Door, an offshoot of the Creative Concord Committee, called a meeting to present its ideas for sprucing up the view of an area that tends to be snidely referred to as Concord’s backside. We encourage residents to weigh in. Slides depicting many of the group’s suggested remedies – nothing is in the formal proposal stage yet – can be found by following a link on the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s website (concordnhchamber.com) and on the Front Door committee’s Facebook page, which encourages comments.
The suggestions range from the simple and inexpensive, hanging event-related banners from the standards on the light posts on the Loudon Road bridge, for example, to complex and costly improvements like a pedestrian bridge over the interstate to connect downtown with the west bank of the Merrimack River.
The banners are a no-brainer. The pedestrian bridge, maybe someday. There is precious little dry land – in some cases just a few feet – between the river and the interstate. The west bank doesn’t widen out enough to support a park until, traveling south from Pleasant Street, just east of the shopping plaza. A peninsula of sorts stretches from there to the Manchester Street bridge where once again, its only a matter of feet between river and highway. That area, were it accessible, would be a good location for a gateway park that connects Concord with its river. In fact, on Google Maps, the area is called West Terrill Park, as if it really were part of the Terrill Park on the opposite bank.
Lighting the cyclone fence and guardrails of the Loudon Road bridge artfully, using LEDs, is a good idea. The lights use so little power that, according to federal Department of Energy figures, 24, 24-foot-long strings of LED lights could be lit using less than the energy consumed by a single 100-watt bulb. The suggestions also include installing two-dimensional sculptural representations of the city’s steeple-pierced skyline. One, in particular, struck us as brilliant: a stage set-like metallic cut-out on the west side of the highway that would screen the view of the shopping center, and whose vertical elements would guide the traveler’s eye up to a city skyline that could be artfully lit at night.
A walking, cross-country-skiing and biking path is slowly being created along the east bank of the river by volunteers. Proposals call for building on that by making far better use of the field behind the Christian Mutual building, perhaps by using it to hold periodic fairs and festivals. That’s a fine idea. And, to emphasize that Concord is a city surrounded by natural wonder, perhaps an equestrian trail could parallel the bike path so passersby on the interstate could see people riding horses in the heart of the city.
Some at the meeting feared that artistic lighting, avant garde art and other things done to draw travelers off the interstate would detract from the historic nature of the city’s downtown. But we agree with the expert who said that the city’s brick architecture and classic look are plenty capable of standing on their own. Using the new along the highway to point out the beauty of the old suggests that Concord is a city in touch with its past and the future.