, Gloucester, MA

January 17, 2013

Letter: Just say no to northern Conomo Point sales

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

While communities across the country search for land and collaborate to raise funds to purchase open space and parkland, we are fortunate in that we already own Northern Conomo Point (NCP).

At first, I was angry that our forefathers had put us in this difficult position of having to decide what to do with NCP after the 99-year leases expired. Yet, after giving extensions, and bridge leases, and stretching the decision-making process out for several more years beyond the end of those 99-year leases, our community is still undecided about what to do. The many tenant/landlord disagreements and legal issues have bogged us down so that we cannot visualize a clear solution.

Northern Conomo Point is our headland. The Essex River is our lifeline to the sea. The estuary is the birthplace of 75-90 percent of fish and crustaceans. The clam flats provide meaningful work for many and their harvest nourishes residents and tourists alike. This entire ecosystem is sensitive, special, timeless, and feeds our spiritual and physical needs for connection to nature.

We cannot afford to sell an inch of Northern Conomo Point! We need open space there for the people of today and for those who will live here in the future.

Until now, less than 5 percent of the people in Essex have enjoyed the privilege of being on NCP: these are our long-term tenants. What about the rest of us: the other 95 percent? How long do we need to wait to access our heritage?

I wish everyone in Essex – the next time you need to run out to pick up a gallon of milk or the daily paper – would take the five-minute drive from Route 133 out to NCP. When you get there, don’t just drive around, park your car and get out and walk. Breathe in the sea air, take in the extensive water views, and really look all around you.

Imagine NCP without the buildings. Visualize NCP as an open space area where the possibilities for recreation and relaxation are limited only by your imagination — as an open space park for all of the people of Essex. It can become real if that’s what we want. Buildings are temporary; the land and sea are permanent.

When we decide that a natural environment at NCP is what the people of Essex want, we will achieve it. Anything is possible if we are united!

The tenants of NCP want the status quo. They are united in their drive to continue to live there because they know what they have enjoyed for so long. Why would anyone want to leave such a beautiful headland? Why shouldn’t we, now, take back our heritage? Northern Conomo Point was there long before the simple summer cottages were erected, and NCP can become a natural place again. A place where we can all recharge our batteries.

Let’s not waste time arguing about what The Point should be. Each of us has ideas of what she/he wants to have in an open space area. The main decision right now is to never sell land at NCP and, might I add, to stop leasing all property there when the present bridge lease expire.

Why am I suggesting this when you hear the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Conomo Point Planning Committee (CPPC) tell you how much money we can make by continuing to lease – for more and more years? Here’s my reasoning:

If we do not sell any land, we will not have angry tenants who will ask why one tenant could buy land, when another one could not (with never-ending lawsuits).

If we do not continue to lease, we will finally be able to access our town property, and begin removing structures, and plan what we want to do with this special open space.

Yes, we will not have the lease money from the tenants if we quit being landlords there, but we will also spare ourselves a great deal of expense and frustration. Demands will be put on us by the Department of Environmental Protection (septic systems). If we continue to lease, we will be the landlord responsible for the 90 bedrooms out there, including all infrastructure expenses, as well as costs of maintaining these structures, providing water, increased police protection, and so much more that we can’t even imagine right now. The money we think we will earn will quickly evaporate as the costs to build new systems and maintain this property will soon strip us of any earnings!

The sale of properties at Southern Conomo Point and Robbins Island will provide us with millions of dollars. We do not need to continue to lease NCP, too.

In 1999, the people of Essex clearly voted to not sell any land at Northern Conomo Point. Let us not look backward, but rather stay with our good judgment and move forward towards creating an open space park on the entire NCP. This will be a place of enjoyment and beauty for everyone forever.

Please join me in saying “no” to selling or continuing to lease the land at NCP. These resources belong to the common wealth of our community!