Mark Hayward's City Matters: West Side neighborhood loses trees and backyard privacy for the summer
Time to teach the kid how to throw and catch.
Or cook hot dogs and hamburgers over an open flame.
Or work on a tan. Or lounge in a hammock and read a book. Or jump into the pool.
Forget that — for this summer at least — if you live on the West Side near Interstate 293. Last fall, trees that shielded about a dozen highway-side homes and backyards were cut as part of a $26.2 million highway construction project.
But for this summer, the backyard activities of people like Mike Mazzaglia are fodder for the roaming eyes of the 73,000 or so people who pass by on the highway every day.
His backyard is most noticeable from the highway. It boasts an above-ground pool encircled by a whitewashed deck, which is connected to the upstairs room of his house by a 40-foot-long ramp.
The small neighborhoods had been hidden gems. Neat homes and green lawns are sandwiched between Second Street and the highway. They are reached by two narrow streets that run off Second Street.
Now cars and trucks zip down the highway, as if they were kayaks shooting through blacktop rapids.
Wentworth Street resident Paul Brunelle, whose backyard is exposed to the highway, worries that a car may wander off the road and come crashing into his backyard, where his three young stepdaughters used to play.
No one is really angry. Sure, there is some grumbling: The contractor cut the trees too soon. Work has moved slowly (but it did pick up this week). And a few trees that remained weren’t being properly protected. (Protective stone was placed around the trees this week.)
Not everyone in the neighborhood, though, is disappointed at trading the trees for the nearly 30-foot wall.
“It’s going to be a big difference,” he predicted. He even anticipates property values will increase. Brunelle said he’ll miss the trees and the animals that they sheltered. He said the sound never bothered him; he used to live near the airport.
Mark Hayward’s City Matters appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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