The Nagle Walkway as it appears on the official Northampton website.
Bill Nagle was an important figure in Northampton’s recent history. The Gazette described him as “a charismatic recovering alcoholic himself whose homespun philosophy espoused self-help and recovery from addiction through community service” in a December 2006 article, and in the seventies and eighties that community service was abundantly delivered to the city by Bill Nagle’s Honor Court. Those services included feeding the hungry, helping shut-ins, and perhaps most well-known keeping the streets of Downtown Northampton immaculately clean.
At six o’clock on any weekday morning downtown streets were filled with Honor Court members sweeping the streets, picking up litter, trimming overgrown branches, and emptying the trash. By eight o’clock the honor court members had disappeared leaving a delightfully inviting downtown behind them. And while Bill Nagle died in 1993, his legacy continued until just a few years ago when the city stopped supporting the Honor Court and the Honor Court eventually left Northampton.
To honor Bill Nagle and recognize his contibutions to Northampton a downtown walkway was dedicated to him. The walkway starts below the railroad bridges on lower Main Street, goes past The Depot restaurant (now Union Station), onto Pleasant Street near the District Attorney’s office where the walkway crosses the street and continues through the downtown, eventually ending in the public parking lot across from The Brewery. For many years, the Honor Court meticulously maintained the area and their pride in the beauty of the walkway named after their founder was evident.
The Nagle Walkway indeed started out as a beautiful park with well maintained landscaping, inviting seating areas, and trash containers that were emptied regularly. It served not only as a convenient way to get from one end of downtown to the other, but as a destination for mothers pushing their babies in strollers, for the elderly who live downtown to sit and talk and enjoy the day, for a picnic lunch, or simply as a relaxing place for tourists to Northampton to take a break from the shops and attractions of downtown. The walkway was vibrant and filled with people enjoying themselves.
That was the vision from a few years ago. The vision from a few weeks ago is less fortunate as seen in the pictures that follow.
After complaining to my city councilor and other officials a few weeks ago, I was assured that the area would be cleaned up. Indeed I have seen a city truck parked on the walkway since I complained (last week). so maybe that assurance is becoming a reality. I will keep you posted.
I will be happy to post any ideas readers might have (or feel free to post them yourselves as comments to this post) and support any efforts fellow downtowners can make in bringing back the beautiful Nagle Walkway of a few years ago.