Character more important than parking in Mattapoisett village

Jul 24, 2018

To the Editor:

Last fall a number of public meetings were held in Mattapoisett giving year-round and summer residents the opportunity to offer their views and concerns regarding a future reconstruction of Main Street, Water Street, Beacon Street and Marion Road. These streets comprise the historic and scenic roadway which meanders along the shore of the town’s picturesque harbor. For all intents and purposes, it defines this iconic seaside village.

These “listening sessions” gave the town’s consulting engineers information which they could use to develop a comprehensive plan that would address various needs of the town, such as drainage issues, safety and so on and those of the residents. According to the surveys, the consultants heard the nearly universal concern of most of the session attendees was that major changes are not desired and that the plan must maintain the village character.

Recently, the plan was presented by the consultants at a sparsely attended regular Board of Selectmen meeting. Those present were mainly town officials, two reporters and perhaps four others who were likely there on other business. Unaware of the meeting until later, I subsequently viewed the PowerPoint presentation on the town website, which I urge others to do, as swell. As a former Design Consultant (albeit many years ago) I found the plan to be generally well done if one is willing to accept the loss of the town’s village character and aesthetic in favor of a more suburban look which is more reminiscent of Wellesley center…or as one official opined…like downtown Wareham and less like Cape Cod or Nantucket to which many compare the area. That said, the plan, in my view, has some ill-conceived exceptions primarily between the wharf entrance at Cannon Street and Barstow Street.

The proposal calls for narrowing of the sidewalks and widening the street to accommodate some 13 additional on-street parking spaces on the south side hard by Shipyard Park. While this change may benefit the businesses, of which there are only two, both of which promote free parking on the town wharf (a perk residents must pay for with purchase of a parking tag) and some residences (all of which have off-street parking available), the result will obstruct the view of the iconic park and our picturesque harbor.

A suggested alternative solution to the parking issue, but not the widening, offered at the meeting, would be to allow only five parking spaces on the south side from the wharf exit to the beginning of the park, thus leaving the view unobstructed. Anyone who has attempted to turn right onto Water Street when a car is illegally parked in front of the General Store, which is often, can attest to the fact that this solution is problematical. Imagine a fire truck or other emergency vehicle making that turn. Parking on the north side, as is the case now, does not create turning issues.

These problems of congestion and parking exist primarily for only two months in the summer. For most of the rest of the year vehicular traffic and parking problems vanish as the village becomes virtually empty of traffic. Not so long ago in my lifetime Mattapoisett village had many shops, restaurants, a post office and other mercantile establishments that contributed to the village charm. Not so much anymore. By diminishing the ambiance of this area with more parking the village remains an expensive residential enclave. A popular slogan once seen on bumper stickers proudly claims “Mattapoisett is Special.” It can reasonably be said that this stretch of road is what makes it special.

Those residents who expressed their view early on in this project said that major changes are not desired and that the plan must maintain the village character. Let us not lose sight of what we have in this beautiful place we call home. To paraphrase an old song…you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone just to pave paradise to put in…parking.

Richard Morgado