GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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July 11, 2013

Riverwalk draws concerns, moves forward

Essex project draws questions, support

ESSEX — Just like boaters, the town’s proposed riverwalk project is steadily chugging forward along a part of the Essex River.

But the project does not have smooth sailing, and is drawing some concerns in a number of circles, notably through a business owner on the Main Street Causeway.

The project was supported by a feasibility study from Salem State University earlier this year; the town would need to take two liens out on private property for the riverwalk to be built.

Voters at the Annual Town Meeting backed an article allowing the town to take out easements on two properties, but Bing Gao, owner of the Riverside Bistro on Main Street, says he has some concerns about the project.

As the name suggests, patrons of the restaurant can sit on the back deck and enjoy the view of the Essex River. But riverwalk plans would skew the view of the river, as the boardwalk — and anyone who uses it — would run parallel to the back deck of the Riverside Bistro.

Gao said that, after speaking with customers about the proposed plans, many of them do not want their view obstructed by riverwalk passers-by.

”They don’t like it,” he said.

There is also a concern for the construction of the riverwalk and how it will affect the bistro’s business.

Waitress Sandy Southall said the restaurant has the customers’ best interests in mind.

”That’s just our major concern,” she said.

Gao also said that initial discussions and plans showed the riverwalk being lower than the deck of his restaurant, not at the same height.

An easement would also be taken out on Perkins Marine, but its owner has not brought any complaints forward to town officials as Gao did.

Gao said he had no problems with the project continuing on the opposing sides of the property, as long as it does not run along the deck.

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