Rowing season is underway in Gloucester harbor. Gig rowers from Maritime Gloucester have been in the water for several weeks. The dories tied at St. Peter’s Commercial Marina are seen moving around the harbor with more women rowing this season than I have noticed in the past. The Gloucester High School sailing team started their season in March. They are well underway to their third consecutive winning season.
As small boats maneuver around the harbor, they negotiate the coming and going of fishing boats. Gloucester lobstermen are busy shuffling lobster traps from land to sea for the harvesting season.
More than two million pounds of lobsters were landed in the port of Gloucester in 2017. Gloucester leads the State in lobster landings each year.
In April, approximately eight Maine scallop boats visited Gloucester to harvest scallops. These vessels, referred to as transients because their home port is Maine, contribute to the economic viability of our working waterfront. Each boat lands 400 pounds of shucked scallop meat per day. In Harbor Cove, both Ocean Crest and Fishermen’s Wharf offload day-boat-dry scallops. This is high quality, locally harvested and landed seafood. With a boat price of $8 per pound of meat, their landing value is appreciable. In addition to the value of their catch, these boats contribute to the local economy in other ways. Dockage fees paid for otherwise empty wharves, temporary housing for crew and supplies for fishing trips. Some boats tie up at The Gloucester House and several others dock in Smith Cove.
All these activities, fishing, rowing, and sailing are important historic cultural activities. It is who we are. It is our identity. All these activities require access to the water.
Is there adequate public access to the water in Gloucester harbor?
Let’s look at the City’s inventory of publicly accessible waterfront locations in the harbor.
County Landing is the only point of public water access to the harbor. It is located at the beginning of the Boulevard, abutting the Tavern. This landing was once used for launching boats from trailers and amphibious vehicle tours. It is now in such disrepair it is difficult and dangerous to launch kayaks or paddle craft there.
The City has entered into a 30-year lease agreement with National Grid for 19 Harbor Loop which houses the Harbormaster. The City is seeking $2.5 million to invest in the building to develop a public boating facility. That seems to be ample funding to develop a dual purpose boating facility. A boating center which serves the community with amenities for use by residents and seasonal visiting yachters.
For those interested in participating in a discussion on Community Boating and expanding public waterfront access, there will be a public discussion held in the Friend Room at the Sawyer Free Library on Tuesday, May 29th at 6:00 pm. Come meet Guy Fiero, Executive Director of Cape Ann Community Boating to learn more. For more information email CapeAnnCB@gmail.com.
Patti Page, 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.