Reckoning Time


Scavenger’s Rocks. 1914                                            John French Sloan (1871-1951)

M.E. Lepionka

When I think of Gloucester as “enduring” my thoughts go back to times before reckoning—times when Cape Ann was under a half mile of ice, for instance, or when the Merrimack emptied into Massachusetts Bay instead of Ipswich Bay, or when the sea drowned the forest at Briar Neck and the mouth of the Annisquam River, and 10,000 years ago people ambushed caribou at chokepoints now under water. It’s hard to imagine the Gloucester that is gone, but to me the Gloucester that is still here is just as hard to imagine—how our salt marshes and barrier beaches could be so new, forming only around 4,000 years ago, and how our rocks could still bear the marks of the people who came here then and made them.

Evidences of times before reckoning are all around us, written in the landscape and heaved up sometimes from the earth. Standing on Plum Cove Beach or Squam Rock or Pole Hill and looking out, I slowly become aware of being in the footsteps of those others, hundreds of generations of them, and of seeing the same things—loving the same things—for surely this place was a paradise for them too. (What stone age marine adapted people would not have loved a rock bound island?) And it’s at those times, even when I am most alone, that I feel most connected with my species and most accepting of my own humanity.

I think Gloucester endures through the humanity of its peoples, expressed in their constructions of culture, layer by layer—a stratigraphy of hopes and fears and triumphs and follies. Digging down we can learn who we are. We are the shamans watching the night sky, marking ceremonial time. When the Milky Way touches the horizon, we bid the spirits of our buried dead ascend the trail of stars to the sky world. We are the terrified conscripts mounding earthworks at Stage Point in 1638, trying to protect Gloster Plantation from an Indian attack that never comes. We are the parents in 1880 with a backyard full of medicine bottles. We cannot afford a new cure —a transfusion of animal blood—for our child with diphtheria; unknowingly avoiding death by that means if not by the other.

To me, this is how our story as humans goes. We embody every contradiction. We are everyone, and no one. I feel this sometimes in solitude, as if there were no lines or limits. We endure in accumulations of times and places. Glaciers and forests and beaches may come and go, but we are here—our bones and our works are here in the ground—our living floors and dumps—our footsteps. This is history. Yet in other ways change and the unchanging cancel each other, and all times become the same time—a time beyond reckoning.



mary-ellen-lepionkaMary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA.  Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission, and volunteers for Friends of Dogtown, Annisquam Historical Society, and Maud/Olson Library.

Site Visit at Tally’s Corner,  THREE Meetings Thursday, October 27th, at 8:30 a.m., 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

Tally’s Corner © 2016 Bing

Tally’s Corner                                           © 2016 Bing

On Thursday Oct 27th @ 8:30 am, City Council President Joe Ciolino will hold a site visit at Tally’s Corner to gather public input for the sidewalk improvement project being planned.

In attendance, will be Mike Hale – DPW Director, Bob Ryan – Traffic Commission, Steve Leblanc – Ward 3 Councilor and other City staff members.  Mike Hale will have the sidewalk improvements painted out prior to the site visit.

This issue will be taken up by the Traffic Commission, City Council Ordinance & Administration Committee and a public meeting will be held for public discussion.  All schedules are yet to be confirmed.


UPDATE to original post: 

The following meetings on Tally’s corner project are now scheduled to be held by the Traffic Commission on Thursday Oct 27th @ 6:00 pm City Hall 3rd floor and Public Meeting co-chaired by Paul Lundberg, At-Large City Councilor and Scott Memhard, Ward 1 City Councilor @6:45 pm Sawyer Free Library Friend Room.
All three meetings will be held in one day.  By the end of the day, one would hope that we will have some understanding as to what work is planning to be performed, and where the City stands in the process with the State.


pattiPatti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and former director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

Tally’s Questions Continue… Oct 18th @ 6:15pm O’Maley

Gloucester, Massachusetts. Main street, 1943. Gordon Parks (1912-2006), photographer.

Gloucester, Massachusetts. Main street, 1943.                      Gordon Parks (1912-2006), photographer.

On Tuesday, October 18th at O’Maley Innovation School 6:15 pm, the City Council will hold a special meeting to review the resubmission of the MassDOT Prioritization Plan of the Safe and Accessible Street Program.

See link to agenda:

From information that has been gathered, the City will be resubmitting to the State a scaled back proposal for improvements to Tally’s corner which will consist of sidewalk improvements and withhold the rotary concept.

As required by the State Policy, the goal of Complete Streets is to design, operate and maintain Gloucester’s streets in a context sensitive manner to promote and ensure safety and accessibility for all users. It does not assert this program is inherently appropriate for every road construction project. To the contrary, the State program provides further flexibility to the City via criteria for exemptions from inclusion, which can be evoked by the Mayor. Being primarily pedestrian and bicycle focused State funding, it lends itself more to other priority projects such as school routes, which were preferred by several City Councilors during the Policy approval process.

Therefore, the revised proposal for sidewalks, which will complement the newly installed ADA compliant sidewalks on Commercial St., should through a context sensitive approach, first protect and provide for the primary use of continued heavy commercial vehicular traffic on the Designated Port Area roadways.

The rotary proposal, which called for reducing radii, utilizing “neckdowns”, widening of sidewalks, narrowing streets and installing pedestrian islands are all counter productive for ease of access of large commercial vehicles. These restrictive measures would result in a rerouting of commercial truck traffic exclusively to the Blackburn Rotary, the 128 extension, Rogers St. and Commercial St. If implemented, which class of commercial trucks to be rerouted remains to be determined. Due to the restrictive nature of the rotary proposal, tractor trailers were assured to be rerouted. However, subject to inclusion would be passenger buses, large box trucks, ten-wheel, eight-wheel and double axle trucks. This would impact all industrial sectors, businesses and delivery trucks servicing the City.

We are anticipating a fully transparent presentation by City staff, which should include a revised, detailed work narrative and plans for review by the City Council and the public. As stated by DPW Director Mike Hale at the last presentation to City Council, the sidewalks set the context for what is to be developed between the sidewalks. We are also awaiting an inclusive process with business owners and the public to review plans and weigh in on impacts and implications of any proposed changes.


pattiPatti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and former director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

Rounding the Corner at Tally’s

Rounding the Corner at Tally's

Photo Courtesy Bing McGilvray

Listed on the City Council agenda for Tuesday October 11th, is the presentation by Mike Hale and Dan Smith on the Tally’s corner project timeline.

As stated in the Safe and Accessible Streets Plan (SAASP) policy signed by the Mayor, a requirement of the process is for the DPW Director to collaborate with and solicit input with several entities on major reconstruction projects.  To date, this has not taken place with the area businesses or residents.  We are interested to know which City departments were consulted during the planning phase?  Was the City’s Fire Department consulted for emergency vehicle access?  Given Coastal Zone Management’s jurisdiction over DPA areas, were they approached to weigh in?

SAASP Policy:  3.  Procedure for creating more safe and accessible streets:

“…the Public Works Director shall collaborate and share information with departments, residents, developers and other organizations on annual street maintenance plans and major reconstruction projects by soliciting questions and concerns to ensure safety and accessibility for all users with a context sensitive approach.”

According to the State MA DOT Funding Priority Program chart, this proposal does not consider Freight Operations as a criteria of the project.  How does a project go forward without such considerations on a DPA roadway which has a primary function to service businesses on Commercial Street?  How does this meet the criteria of a context sensitive approach?

In the 2012 hotel development traffic study, by their own engineers, there was no such finding for major reconstruction necessary for this area. Their recommendations consisted of lane designations and signage.

The joint Ward meeting on September 15th, held after the proposal was submitted to the State for stage Tier III funding, produced much concern and no support for the plan.  There are several Commercial Street business owners expressing deep concern over this proposal as having a potential negative impact on their business operations.  There have been assurances made by the City there is latitude to make modifications to the plan.

Given the lack of public process, lack of collaboration with City departments and omission of any detailed plans provided to City Council during the approval stages, this proposal should be pulled back for further review.

We once again ask when and to what extent public input will be solicited to produce a plan which serves to support area businesses, provide user safety, enhance aesthetics and produce a cost effective solution.


pattiPatti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

Oarmaster 2016

By Jim Tarantino

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At 7 a.m. on October 1st, it was raining and blowing 15-20 mph out of the NNW….and the forecast called for intensifying. Perfect weather for the 8th Annual Oarmaster’s Cup, the solo race for Gloucester dory rowers who are brave enough to face the elements and each other to determine who is the best Grand Banks dory rower on Cape Ann.  John Francis left no one questioning the answer, crushing the competition by a full minute, with a time of 17:53, over the roughly 2-Mile course around Gloucester’s Outer Harbor!

The first heat featured Francis, former Seineboat Champion Jim Looney, newcomer Wally Mears, and myself: defending, two-time Oarmaster Champ. The wind and rain were coming hard when the gun went off and Francis wasted no time powering off the starting line to an early lead. Not to be easily defeated, Mears torqued up the power, but broke an oar, bringing his dory sideways.  I then broke an oar, pulling a hard right to avoid a collision, and ended up on the deck causing a great deal of commotion, and almost a call to the Coast Guard by officials Joe Novello and Gus Sanfilippo on the Committee Boat! Once it was determined I wasn’t injured and had no spare oar, the Committee boat gave me an anchor to keep me from blowing to Boston and left to continue monitoring the course, which John Francis was now destroying. Mears had a spare oar and, after checking to make sure I wasn’t seriously hurt, powered his way to an impressive second-place finish!

The second heat brought less rain and higher wind! Gloucestermen Vincenzo Terranova, Mike Harmon, Erik Dombrowski and Bill Edmonds were up to the challenge! All dories got out strong. By the first turn it was a two boat race between experienced champion rowers Dombrowski and Harmon. They battled close but after the second turn Harmon turned it on and pulled ahead. But the strong Northerly winds forced him and Dombrowski toward the rocks before the finish line at Half Moon Beach, and young Vincenzo Terranova was coming on strong over the last quarter mile. Harmon scraped the rocks and Terranova powered up for a photo finish, both men finishing with a time of 18:55!

What an honor to compete with these men who can skillfully navigate 450-pound workboats in a gale of wind on America’s most storied fishing port. What a great Maritime tradition! We should all be grateful to the men and women who keep these events going, and keep our Community so genuine…so special… so Gloucester!


jimmy-tarantinoJames Tarantino (Jimmy T.) is an exemplary outdoor enthusiast who heralds his love of family, his friends, and his passion for all things Gloucester.