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Our View: Walking the walk to get action

Not long after World War II, when federal officials unveiled plans to turn the former Chesapeake and Ohio Canal into a highway to speed drivers from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, D.C., Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was a voice in the wilderness. Douglas, an inveterate hiker and outdoorsman, thought the plan would destroy the natural beauty of the 185-mile canal and Potomac River corridor.

When the Washington Post editorialized in support of the highway plan in 1954, Douglas wrote to the man who wrote the editorial, inviting him to "take time off and come with me. We would go with packs on our backs and walk the 185 miles to Cumberland. I feel that if your editor did, he would return a new man and use the power of your great editorial page to help keep this sanctuary untouched."

The editor and dozens of others took Douglas up on the offer. Their multi-day hike along the canal eventually lead to passage of The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Act in 1971.

Early this summer, Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn hatched the idea of kayaking the length of the Merrimack River, a 117-mile route from Franklin, New Hampshire, to Plum Island. Glenn wasn't looking to save the waterway from a federal project, but he saw value in bringing attention to the river as an economic, environmental and recreational resource for the region. The Merrimack needs help to make it healthy again, after centuries as the sewer pipe for upstream cities and towns, and, more recently, infusions of untreated sewage after heavy storms.

As Glenn and seven others paddled on their second day of the trip, Aug. 8, Massachusetts officials were putting the spotlight on another big area of concern -- growing traffic congestion throughout Greater Boston. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation report pointed out the obvious, that congestion is most severe in metro Boston, with frequent gridlock and unpredictable traffic flow.

As Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack put it, “The commonwealth has reached a tipping point with respect to congestion.”


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