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April 19, 2013

Editorial: City officials should pursue Massport mooring efforts

The talks between the town of Manchester and the Massachusetts Port Authority over the idea of replacing a series of moorings and adding new moorings in the area around Sand Dollar Bay raises a number of questions.

But they are hardly limited to Manchester, where its Harbor Advisory Committee has raised concerns about adding mooring slots. A larger question might be raised in Gloucester, which desperately needs to expand its mooring space to help provide a more boater-friendly waterfront to better draw one-day or even one-afternoon boating visitors who can tie up, come ashore and take in the restaurants, shops and other attractions that downtown Gloucester has to offer.

The Manchester scenario has helped turn a local spotlight on a Massport program for which the agency has poured in some $500,000 toward restoring eelgrass, replacing older moorings with helix moorings that are more environmentally friendly — and in Manchester’s case, installing new moorings as well.

That indeed sounds like a program that Gloucester’s erstwhile Waterways Board should be actively pursuing. Yet there’s been no open Gloucester discussion about the program or the Massport offer to communities at all. And of all the Waterways Board “accomplishments” cited by Chairman Tony Gross when we proposed in February that the board be scrapped, dealing with Massport and its own mooring program sure wasn’t one of them.

There’s frankly no certainty that Massport would extend similar offers to Gloucester that it has to Manchester, but city officials owe it to residents and boating visitors alike to find out.

The truth is, the Waterways Board – which absurdly still controls the I-4, C-2 site, provides oversight of Harbormaster Jim Caulkett, and essentially regulates and manages the city’s moorings and waterfront activities — remains an obstructive force in the city’s efforts to expand boaters’ services as part of what should be seen as a major development opportunity. And city officials would still do well to consider committing to history, shifting Caulkett to a role under the chief of police and putting the board’s other functions directly under the City Council or Mayor Carolyn Kirk.

But in the interim, this board or the council should look into whether this Massport project would indeed bring benefits to Gloucester.




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