Opinion By Rich Lascelles
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Litchfield Mirror, LCTV, LCM, the Town of Litchfield or it’s elected officials.
Ever wonder why one of the most often used roads in Litchfield is named after a city in New Mexico?
Well it isn’t. It’s named for the man who had a dream that took decades to bring to fruition and now is considered one of the best examples of planning for the future and harnessing explosive growth. To understand the importance of Albuquerque Avenue you have to take yourself back to what our fair town was like in 1970 with a population of 1470. Litchfield was a bucolic collection of homes, farms, forests, and wetlands. There was a single north-south “highway” serving the town that was in reality a paved over former wagon trail that had served the town for centuries. It meandered (as it does now) along
a path roughly parallel to the Merrimack river. Scattered along this path were homes and farms. It truly could have been used by Currier and Ives. The road itself was narrow which had served speeds more relevant to an era of the horse and buggy rather than modern vehicles.
East and West roads were limited to Cutler road at the very north end, Hillcrest and Pinecrest which served the center of town, and finally Talent and Page which served the south. Pinecrest and Talent were only partially paved. Small neighborhood developments had only started to be seen scattered in a somewhat haphazard fashion.
Eduardo “Ed” Albuquerque was a retired veteran Navy engineer of Portuguese decent who had taken a job at Sanders Associates (now BAE Systems) in Nashua and settled with his wife Rita and two young boys in the north end. He was scared by the fact that the only way his kids could ride their bikes to Griffin Memorial School, Darrah Pond, or any of their friend’s homes in the south they had to ride along narrow Route 3-A. Ed was a member of the town Planning Board and had come to the conclusion that explosive growth was coming to southern New Hampshire and that bucolic Litchfield was not going to be immune to that growth. He took his job on the Planning Board seriously. The whole purpose of the
board was to bring a semblance of reason to future development.
At some point a vision came to Ed. Why couldn’t Litchfield put into place a plan for a major highway through the center of town that would serve to open the virgin undeveloped area that was in 1970 predominantly forest? Not just a regular street but something of which the town could be proud. He dreamed of a wide boulevard with no homes directly abutting and with a sidewalk/bike path along it’s entire length. He wanted it to maintain the rural character of Litchfield and not be an absolutely straight
superhighway. He also wanted this dream to be accomplished at no expense to the taxpayer. That
developers had to incur the cost of the road as an expense of doing business. Very few of his fellow planning board members and other town fathers thought it was possible. After all, Ed’s dream would be a tremendous expense to developers. They would fight him at every turn and there
was no way he could get it done. But Ed persisted and in 1974 the planning board put the plan into place. In the 1974 town report for the Planning Board:
“The Planning Board has plans for a north-south road from Cutler Rd. to Pinecrest and it will eventually join Route3A at the north end by the general store. The cost of this road will be borne by the subdividers and no cost to the town. This road will be a collector road for the anticipated traffic from the new subdivisions.
Even after the plan was put into place, Ed had many battles to win. Ed’s son Matt, a successful
Manchester entrepreneur, remembers many angry phone battles he had in the family kitchen. But Ed persisted with his plan helped by some on the developer side by the likes of Rick Charbonneau and the road agent Roland Bergeron who agreed with Ed’s dream for the future. Litchfield legend Pat Jewett, who’s husband Will was also a member of the planning board during this period, is effusive in her praise
for Ed’s foresight.
And so the plan was put into place. Beginning in the mid-70s, as developments were approved, the
avenue, now named in Ed’s honor, was included. Ed’s foresight with respect to Litchfield’s growth, was amazing. By 1980, the population of the town had exploded almost threefold to 4230. In fact, in the decade of the 70s, Litchfield was the fastest growing town in New Hampshire. That growth (in fits and spurts) continues today with a current population estimated at 8400. Albuquerque was built in sections over the years and was not completed until 2007.
Today on a nice sunny day you can see literally dozens of Litchfield citizens strolling along, riding bikes, walking dogs, jogging, roller blading, and yes even riding horses along the avenue. It connects all the major parts of town with Roy Memorial Park, Campbell High School, the state forest, Town offices, and other recreation areas. You can drive safely from Route 3-A in the north to Page and Cutler in the south. When I talk with friends from other towns who come for sporting events at Darrah Pond or Campbell High, they frequently comment of what an asset Ed’s vision has become. Ed didn’t survive to see his vision come to fruition. He passed away in 1994, but his vision does survive, and will continue serve the town into the future. Eduardo “Ed” Albuquerque was one of people who made Litchfield the great town it is today. Thanks, Ed!
If you have an idea for a story contact Rich at (603) 325-5523 or by email at email@example.com