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Hingham Harbor plans show potential of future development

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 19, 2013 03:27 PM

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Community Rowing Inc.

(Above) Designs show the proposed harbor development as if looking from Cohasset. The rotary is gone and replaced with parking amenities. (Left) Designs show the same area from the perspective of the water.

In new development drafts for Hingham Harbor, the rotary is long gone. Replacing it are scenic parking spots and a two-story, four-season boathouse.

Also forgotten is the fast throughway of Route 3A, switched out for a small lighted intersection leading the way to downtown.

The harbor walk plans are the brainchild of Hingham resident DJ MacKinnon, who paid for and began a $5,000 study in December 2012 to look at long-term harbor plans.

It's only a first step, but after months of coordination with Community Rowing Inc., and with feedback from several boating community groups, conceptual designs are in place. Now MacKinnon wants public feedback.

“We realized there are a lot of different interests in the harbor,” MacKinnon said to the Board of Selectmen last Monday. “In addition to rowing and sailing, we have memorials down there. We have the Bathing Beach, some like to go down to the harbor just to enjoy the harbor…there is definitely a lot of interest in enjoying the harbor and we have an opportunity to create a park along the harbor with a number of components to it.”

The existing plans are broken out into three phases, the first of which would create a management organization to oversee harbor development and operations.

A long-term lease would also have to be negotiated with the town to enable development to happen.

“To obtain it we have to go through a methodical process, and part of that is an RFP process…but the town has to decide what they want to see physically, how they want it to operate,” MacKinnon said.

With a lease in hand, kayaking and paddleboard companies could pop up along the harbor. Permitting for a boathouse would also get under way, and funding for dock improvements would be raised.

Phase two calls for the elimination of the Route 3A traffic rotary. A straight through-way would allow for 115 parking spots next to the harbor, and a bike path would be possible with the new configuration.

Private fund-raising for the boathouse would also be secured during this stage. MacKinnon said the structure would most likely cost $3 million to $4 million. But the goal is to raise all the money privately.

In phase three, the boathouse would be constructed. The dock system would also be reviewed and a new one possibly constructed.

MacKinnon also detailed to selectmen plans to move the current boathouse to a cleaned up Steamboat Wharf, and create walking paths with green space for more people to enjoy the harbor.

Selectman Paul Healey said the project had a long way to go from the “pretty picture stage” to realization.

“I would encourage you to get to the Planning Board quickly before you get too far down the road,” he said.

Meanwhile, Selectman Bruce Rabuffo was focused on 3A and the rotary, which is owned by the state.

“It’s important we work together to get that traffic issue resolved. None of this can happen without getting this resolved,” he said.

Hingham has been working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for some time to address speeding and traffic concerns along the road. The focus has initially been on the Derby Street corridor, though the rotary is on the radar.

Despite the work to be done, residents also were supportive of the project.

“I would love to be able to see some [the realization] of these initial drawings,” said Christine Dietterich, a Summer Street resident.

Selectman Irma Lauter, too, was excited for the project, especially for a boathouse with meeting space that could be transformed into a community asset.

“This won't happen in six months, but if we don’t start, it won't happen at all,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to this.”

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