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Letters/My View

June 27, 2013

Letter: Development corporation eyes harbor's future

To the editor:

Gloucester Harbor’s geographic proximity to the wild fishing grounds of Stellwagen Bank, the Gulf of Maine and the northwest Atlantic situated it to become a fishing port.

The harbor’s configuration and additional protection afforded by the Dog Bar Breakwater offer safe refuge, and generations of families built a robust financial engine that expanded to include numerous support businesses, a phenomenon now recognized as a marine cluster in a hub port.

Much of today’s local economic structure is built upon this foundation of nature, industry, and culture. Fishing is at the core of the Cape Ann community.

Now, Gloucester Harbor’s future is challenged by regulatory mismanagement that has thrown the fishing industry into an “economic disaster” as recognized by the Department of Commerce. There is a strong possibility that the loss of any one critical component will trigger a domino-like conversion of the working waterfront from sea-based activities to irreversible land uses that are not water dependent.

If some commercial boats can hold on until the catch limits are lifted and/or if innovative marine businesses are attracted here, there is a real question whether the harbor and needed waterfront infrastructure will be available.

Can we imagine Gloucester without any dockage for fishing boats to unload? Without any space to load ice, fuel and provisions, or without fresh seafood for local and regional consumers?

Most of the working waterfront is privately owned and not suitable for municipal operations. With notable exceptions, much of the private waterfront displays deferred maintenance; other property improvements remain pending as owners watch “what ifs” play out. To be user-friendly, however, a new tool should reinforce private endeavors by providing leverage and flexibility.

After much research, a private, agile, pro-active, not-for-profit community development corporation (CDC) has formed to be an additional resource. Our intent is to draw upon local knowledge and heritage to attract additional resources into Gloucester that will promote a progressive resurgence of the working waterfront.

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