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My advice is 'Dredge, baby, dredge'

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor Letters, letters, letters: I can't think of a topic that spurred more comments from readers in recent months than the issue of what to do with Longmeadow High School. We've received far more letters than we can possibly print and are trying our best to fit in as many as possible. We are also trying to adequately represent in those choices the various points of view on the subject. So please do not take offense if your letter doesn't see print. There's nothing personal intended. As is the policy of this newspaper, we will not print any letters in the edition immediately prior to the vote this one happening on June 7. The last edition with letters on the topic will be May 31. The interesting thing about the school discussion is that it brings up several larger issues. One is the fact that many people over the years have moved to Longmeadow because of the schools and now there is a fundamental debate about the high school facility. The other is the splash of cold water in the face Longmeadow residents are receiving over just what a residential community such as theirs one that has actively kept industry, retail and services out of town can afford in these days and times. I'm glad to see that many people are taking an active role on both sides of the topic. That's heartening. Let's all hope a solution that solves the present one and prevents future issues can be found.
In our last Springfield edition, I wrote a story about a daylong panel sponsored by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) on possible strategies for the development of the riverfront in downtown Spring-field. People may forget the river was the reason William Pynchon was interested in settling the Greater Springfield area. It provided a means of transportation, water to drink and food to eat. The river grew in its significance as a source of power Holyoke exists because of the drop in the river there. The river's power is more important than ever in this green age. Holyoke Gas & Electric owns the water rights to the river up to Sunderland and is working with a private developer in the creation of underwater turbines that would generate electricity from the flow of the current. In Springfield the issue of what to do with the riverfront has been a subject for decades. The train tracks have complicated access to the river for over a century. The construction of Interstate 91 destroyed the neighborhood closest to the river. Now the ULI group came up with the notion the best way to use the riverfront is to create a neighborhood there with a 20-story apartment tower next to the Memorial Bridge. What? Some people laughed when Charles Ryan (the son of the former Springfield mayor) advocated a plan to dredge the river so Springfield, West Springfield and perhaps even Chicopee could have a barge port, allowing for industrial access to Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Ryan's idea is far more sensible to me that building a 400-unit apartment tower and yet no one snickered about that idea. Dredging the river for barge navigation first planned back in the administration of Franklin Roosevelt could actually help retain jobs as well as attract new ones. Isn't it all about jobs at this point? Are there that many people out there with the desire to live near busy Amtrak and freight rail lines? And do so at market rates? When I-91 was built, someone should have thought about the impact to the South End neighborhood before they started taking down the neighborhood and someone should have thought of the island of a riverfront they were creating. How many times, though, does that happen that planners and politicians actually think ahead? I say "Dredge, baby, dredge." This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to news@thereminder.com or to 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.
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