Open space and recreation plan :town of North Andover, Massachusetts

Doucette, Richard P.
Department of Environmental Studies
The management of natural, cultural and recreational resources is a difficult, if not impossible, task for most communities. The issues appear too large, the system too reactive, and resources too limited to accomplish meaningful change. The Town of North Andover is, in many ways, a fine example of a New England town in transition: an agricultural community, turned mill town, now suffering from the social, financial and environmental effects of rampant residential growth. Various public and private interests compete feverishly for the remaining resources. While the general public is overloaded with information, they see few solutions. This Community has reacted to crises like most communities, trying desperately to understand what went wrong and how to ensure that it won't happen again. Proactive efforts aimed at identifying and managing resource management issues are few and far between. This community is in a critical position to learn from its past, as well as the past and present of many communities who suffer from similar problems. This Open Space and Recreation Plan is well-timed since it takes advantage of a lull in the growth process which has gripped this community for more than two decades. Representatives of a cross-section of the community have gathered together to identify important open space and recreation issues to develop a comprehensive plan for managing these resources. This planning effort, while focusing on the present conditions, has thoroughly reviewed past efforts. These include: 1970 Open Space Plan, 1972 comprehensive Plan, 1980 Open Space and Recreation Plan, 1987 Balanced Growth Plan, 1987 Open Space and Recreation Plan. The common goals of these past efforts act as the foundation for the recommendations of this plan. These commonalities include: Watershed protection and acquisition, protection of hilltops, acquisition of land and access to the Merrimack River, the completion of linkages between open spaces, protection of farmland and other scenic landscapes. The results of these past efforts, while encouraging, have not been entirely successful. Through the planning process; the information gathered, lessons learned and the decisions made are in themselves, very important. We must not be so enamored with 'process' that we forget the most important stage in this program. A high level of goal attainment can only be achieved when even greater effort is focused on the implementation/evaluation phase of the process. This plan seeks to maximize this implementation and evaluation phase, and to make some systemic changes to the management process which undermines implementation.

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