Patriots' Day in Concord, commemorating the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Photo by Maia Kennedy Photography

Planning a revolutionary anniversary — with wisdom from the past

By Betsy Levinson — 

Armed with lessons learned 50 years ago, the Public Safety Subcommittee of Concord250 is planning 2025’s historic celebration. 

“Unlike 50 years ago, we are using a multijurisdictional approach,” said Subcommittee Chair Fred Ryan, a former Concord police officer and Arlington police chief.  

In January, the town signed an intermunicipal agreement linking resources from Concord, Arlington, Lexington, and Lincoln, which will be international focal points on Patriots Day.  

The combined total budget projection for public safety, including public works, fire and police, is $725,000, Ryan said. That’s based on “a number of assumptions and variables,” which will be adjusted as more details become available.  

“All of us are drawing robust plans that are scalable up or down,” Ryan said.  

He noted that almost half the budget, $350,000, was the subject of Article 13 on the April 29 Town Meeting warrant

Safety first 

Subcommittee member Kurt Schwartz, the former director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association and undersecretary for Homeland Security for the state, said the towns are “well positioned” to guard public safety thanks to the extensive planning.  

Illustration by Peter Farago

“One of the keys is to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Schwartz said.  

“You want to regularly assess threats that are possible and understand the worst-case scenario and how to manage it.”  

Ryan said MEMA is “helping us plan for everything from a missing child to violent acts and everything in between.”  

So far, the forecast is one of large crowds across multiple venues, with the multitudes comprising not only tourists but national media, dignitaries, and First Amendment activists. 

Ryan said the towns are bringing together police, fire and public works departments, and Minute Man National Historical Park to keep people safe while respecting their right to free expression.  

“All relevant federal, state and county municipal agencies are working together,” he said.  

Then-President Gerald Ford spoke at the North Bridge in 1975, but that was then.  

Then-President Gerald Ford at Old North Bridge in 1975. Photo by William Wheeler Anderson, Jr., courtesy of Ken Anderson

This is now, and the “political landscape” has changed, Ryan said.  

The committee is consulting with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association on intelligence and communication for the April 19, 2025 weekend.  

He said a “unified coordination center” would be set up to receive and distribute information from the field: “Each individual jurisdiction would handle its own incident planning, but it would be coordinated through the single coordination center.” 

“The right direction” 

Concord Police Chief Thomas Mulcahy said he is working on logistics with local, state, and federal public safety partners.  

“Our current planning includes focusing on operational security for the events, staffing, management and communications,” Mulcahy said.  

Concord250 Public Safety Committee Chair Fred Ryan updating the Select Board on preparations for the 2025 anniversary of the start of the Revolution. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

In the months ahead, Mulcahy said, planning will include “additional training of staff who will be assigned to the events and putting together a comprehensive traffic management plan.”  

Overall, Schwartz said, “We are definitely on time and headed in the right direction.” 

He is bringing to bear his extensive experience with the Boston Marathon as well. 

“It’s a very large regional public event,” he said. “I am confident that April 2025 will have a solid plan and the right people to carry it out.”  

Aaron Miklosko, superintendent of the highway and grounds division of Concord Public Works, also meets regularly with his counterparts in the other towns involved in the celebration. He is poring over GIS maps to pinpoint the best areas for parking, transportation, and potential road closures.  

“We are well along in that process,” Miklosko said.  

He is mindful that the Boston Marathon takes place just two days after the local Revolution commemoration: “We are identifying state resources before that Monday,” he said.  

Ryan said “consensus among the communities is to refrain from planning larger events” on that Monday.