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Rep. urges cleanup of Riverwalk

Peter Koutoujian wants the Riverwalk cleaned up before small problems create big troubles.

Rep. urges cleanup of Riverwalk

State Rep. Peter Koutoujian, right, talks to residents who are concerned about graffiti along the Riverwalk - Fred Faugno, center, and John Hawkes.

By Jen Judson, Daily News staff
Daily News Tribune
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:14 AM
Last update May 06, 2010 @ 03:14 AM

WALTHAM —

Recalling the broken-window phenomenon he learned about while studying at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, state Rep. Peter Koutoujian wants the Riverwalk cleaned up before small problems create big troubles.

The broken-window theory is based on the idea that if a broken window isn't fixed neighborhoods will inevitably get more broken windows.

Under that theory, graffiti and litter, if not removed, will then become problems, followed by crime.

To keep the Riverwalk along the Charles River, safe and beautiful, Koutoujian has mounted a campaign to promote upkeep of the paths and grounds along the way.

Knowing even the smallest improvements make a difference, the Waltham Democrat has been working to clean up the Riverwalk since last fall.

"We have been making progress, and progress is in the pipeline as well."

Back in the fall, Koutoujian received calls from resident John Hawkes, who frequently bikes along the Riverwalk with his children, Alice, 13, Brodie, 10, and Caroline, 7.

Koutoujian said Hawkes was "deeply concerned" about the condition of the walk, as well as offensive graffiti.

Over the past few years, the graffiti has gotten out of control, he said.

"The most disturbing was last summer when swastikas starting showing up," said Hawkes.

At first, Hawkes said, the process was complicated to figure out whether the state, city or businesses own particular parts of the Riverwalk.

Some graffiti was painted over and surfaces stayed clean for a period of time, but some has shown up again, said Koutoujian.

Overgrown bushes and weeds also need to be cleared, he said.

Koutoujian said he has been working with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department to coordinate having inmates clean and landscape the walkways and remove graffiti.

Having inmates clean up the Riverwalk will save taxpayers "tens of thousands of dollars," said Koutoujian.

In preventing future graffiti, Koutoujian is hoping to get the Waltham Boys & Girls Club to paint a mural. He said studies have shown that painting murals can combat graffiti problems.

"If you place artwork there, people won't be as likely to paint over it," said Koutoujian.

There had been a mural at a point along the Riverwalk many years ago, and it stayed free of graffiti for a long time, he said.

There are a number of offensive depictions along the Calvary Street walkway area, according to a constituent report. Additionally, there is substantial graffiti on a wall bordering the trail entry off Moody Street, near Shaw's Supermarket.

Koutoujian has also contacted businesses with property along the Riverwalk.

One business, a junk company, has already taken great strides to clean up its property, said Koutoujian.

"We know the businesses want to be good neighbors," said Hawkes. "It's got to be frustrating for them," he said of the recurring graffiti.

Hawkes said they are looking into using special paint for walls along the Riverwalk that are frequently hit by graffiti. If the walls are tagged again, the graffiti can simply be washed off.

"I was involved in the creation of the Riverwalk, and it is still a very special place," said Koutoujian.

"I want to make sure that it is a place I can feel safe bringing my children," he said. "It is one of the best parts of Waltham."

Jen Judson can be reached at 781-398-8004 or jjudson@cnc.com.
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