City to explore a deck park over the interstate 

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 06-13-2023 6:29 PM

Concord’s downtown has been cut off from the Merrimack River since the arrival of the railroads nearly two centuries ago. On Monday, the Concord City Council approved a plan to study whether there’s a way to reconnect the two.

The Council backed a plan to spend $200,000 to assess the feasibility of building a bridge park over Interstate 93 somewhere between exits 13 and 14.

The money will allow city engineers to complete a study in conjunction with the planned I-93 expansion through Concord. Their goal will be to determine suitable locations for the bridge park, develop concept plans for the structure, develop plans demonstrating how the structure would connect to Storrs Street, the Merrimack River and Loudon Road and develop preliminary costs, according to city documents. If it’s ever built, a bridge park would take between 12 and 14 months to complete.

“This is an opportunity to reconnect the downtown to the river from which we’ve been separated for 200 years … This is our last best hope to see if it’s feasible,” said at-large councilor Byron Champlin. “If we don’t explore it now, it will be another ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda’ for the city.”

Not all city councilors are in favor of the study.

“I have some concerns with this. This feasibility project would only happen after the highway is widened and I feel like we can access the river less expensively,” said Councilor Stacey Brown in opposition to the feasibility study. “Based on the Master Plan from 2006, a feasibility study was done at that time and determined it’s not feasible.”

Agreeing with her assessment that a deck park might not ultimately make sense, at-large councilor Nathan Fennessey said the city should still spend the time and the money to assess it and determine if it would make sense.

Despite Brown’s hesitations, the remainder of the council voted in favor of allocating the funds to explore the feasibility of the deck park and pedestrian river access. When the council voted on the 2024 budget, they approved an additional $150,000 for the Merrimack Greenway River Trail expansion to further provide river access to residents. 

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“This is an opportunity for us to be creative and think differently about how we are going to get people off the highway and into our downtown,” said Mayor Jim Bouley. “This idea came from the community when they came and testified and if we don’t spend this money, we’re never going to know what it’s going to look like.”

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