EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 30, 2013

Haverhill's fireworks a hit, but traffic detours must stop

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — For close to three decades, it has been an event to keep marked on your calendar.

Haverhill’s annual July 4th fireworks display is a highlight of the year not just for the city, but also for the region.

It has had its share of traffic backups over the years, but nothing people weren’t willing to tolerate. They know some hassles come with the territory when thousands of people squeeze into a relatively small area.

But a decision by police to overregulate traffic at last year’s fireworks was a mistake we hope doesn’t happen again this year when the smoke clears after Wednesday’s 9 p.m. display behind Trinity Stadium.

People flock to the event to see their friends and take in the show. And what a fireworks show Haverhill puts on to light up the July sky.

The display starts out slow, but soon fills the sky with multi-colored explosions, leaving children and adults wide-eyed and wowed.

On and on it goes, keeping viewers’ eyes glued skyward. The cheers that fill the air at the end are a testament to the success of the display.

Those who organize the annual July 4 festival in Riverside Park and the fireworks that cap off the event are to be congratulated.

Vincent Ouellette, the city’s human services director, and others who work on the event make it possible for the community to enjoy a good, old-fashioned family time. Festival-goers listen to music from a disc jockey, enjoy carnival food such as sausages and fried dough, and then take in the fireworks display.

Even those who don’t attend the festival enjoy the fireworks show. They watch from across the river in Groveland, from nearly a mile away on Salem Street and other high spots in the area, even from boats on the Merrimack River. They come from several nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns.

When it is over, people head almost immediately for home. That’s when things went awry last year.

Instead of letting drivers take their regular course away from the festival and surrounding areas, police decided to institute a new traffic system.

Officers detoured cars away from the routes they usually take, causing confusion among drivers and long delays.

It took some people who live a half mile from the festival nearly an hour to get home.

People who go to the festival or park nearby expect some delays as they leave, and are willing to tolerate them. But those drivers should not be subjected to what they faced last year.

Police have an important role at an event of this kind, to keep order if problems arise, to provide security where there is a large crowd, and yes to direct traffic — but only when needed.

When Wednesday night’s fireworks are over, we hope police simply keep a close eye on the crowd and get involved with traffic only if necessary.

They should let people make their way home as they always have — and avoid trying to fix something that ain’t broke.