, Gloucester, MA

April 15, 2013

Letter: Dogtown wasn't meant to go digital

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Last week, there were two articles in the Times (Tuesday, April 9, Friday, April 12) about a dedicated and selfless Boy Scout who installed markers in Dogtown as part of his Digital Dogtown project for becoming an Eagle Scout.

At first, I was shocked that a good work had been so quickly targeted by vandals. Motherhood, baseball, apple pie. Who could want to destroy such a project?

But then I realized that this might not be a simple case of vandalism and wayward teenagers. So I am writing to suggest another side to the story.

Dogtown is a wilderness in our back yard. We all praise and cherish it. I have memories of 40 years ago when I used to await the full moons of winter so I could ski for five hours on my hickory cross country skis in Dogtown with the only light of the moon, and six inches of untouched powder snow sparkling under my skis. It was a silent, stunning and ecstatic experience.

It is so rare to have such beautiful land within walking distance, a place to immerse yourself in nature, away from the getting and spending of the daily world. Dogtown is Cape Ann’s Walden Pond, as yet unspoiled.

So despite good intentions, someone has innocently laid claim to this land. Stakes have been driven. Cell phones are welcomed. Signs will be needed. Overnight, Dogtown has become a tourist attraction.

In the quiet seaside village of Rockport, if you have an extra $1,000, you can buy a bench, and put your name on it, and plant it forever on town land with a $5 million view of the ocean. So why not civilize Dogtown?

The real value of Digital Dogtown, however, is that it reminds us what an incredible place Dogtown really is — not to be advertised, not to be monetized, not to be synthesized.

In this case, we should not be misled into defending a Boy Scout project initiated with good intensions. Real leadership can be shown by him not just attempting to give to the community, but more importantly, by his realizing what inadvertently he is taking away.

This Eagle Scout has indeed performed a vital public service, but it is not by implanting the digital world in Dogtown Common. So let us go to Dogtown to experience what has disappeared everywhere else. Save your cell phones for texting and chatting as you speed down Route 128. Turn them off when you enter the magic world of Dogtown Common.