The soft breeze and high summer sun that teased expressions of delight from the explorer Samuel de Champlain when he sailed into “Beauport” and put Gloucester Harbor on the map more than 400 years ago, appeared again Thursday to offer texture and shading to the dedication of HarborWalk — at once a tour of the city’s waterfront and a trip through space and time.
A collaboration of city, state, volunteer and local institutions organized and headed by Mayor Carolyn Kirk, Gloucester’s HarborWalk wends from St. Peter’s Square, where ceremonies were held Wednesday, to Harbor Loop and then back along Main Street. Along the way, walkers pass 42 granite “story moments,” literal and virtual perspectives on what one speaker, Peter Sollogub, the project manager from Cambridge 7 Associates, described as “a city of sudden views.”
He credited the late San Francisco columnist Herb Caen with creating that phrase, before making his own, describing the mayor as “the shepherd of the walk.”
The audience, which counted perhaps 100, was made up mostly of interested parties, none less so than Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, a landlubber and former mayor of Worcester who recalled lobbying by Kirk for financial help for her city’s waterfront potential while the fishing industry was in “crisis.” The state’s Seaport Advisory Council has provided $3.2 million for the waterfront, including $1.2 million for HarborWalk.
“It’s a great day in Gloucester, and a great day for the commonwealth because of that,” said Murray.
Already featuring smart phone links to film, recorded voice and story, virtual post card sending, and opportunities to experience a little bit of what it was like to be a fisherman in the time of the great schooners and epic dory fisherman Howard Blackburn, HarborWalk is yet to be finished, and is set to extend into the dimension of fine art decoration.
The mayor announced that the city has “reserved” $50,000 for the installation of art along the walk; the city, she said would solicit submissions and make selections to beautify the way at stops.
The dedication ceremonies, meanwhile, continue today and extend through Saturday and Sunday.
Today’s HarborWalk dedication focuses on art and literature, the artists, authors and poets who have been drawn to and inspired by the city, and begins at noon also at St. Peter’s Park.
On Saturday, a family walk, featuring the work of Virginia Lee Burton, the Caldicott Award-winning author of children’s books, who lived in the Folly Cove section of Lanesville, begins at City Hall at 10:45 a.m.
And On Sunday, the four days of official HarborWalk-ing comes to an end with a walk that begins at noon at the reconfigured Gus Foote Park, one of the city’s pocket parks. Named for the local political legend, humorist and retired fisherman who was sitting in the crowd Thursday, the park that bears his name has been transformed into a sweet scented butterfly and hummingbird garden by Kim Smith, the Gloucester based landscape designer and author.
The Sunday walk features the city’s four century-long maritime heritage, which began in 1623 when a group of fishermen from Dorchester, England established a fishing camp.
After beginning the dedication with a recording of Burton’s reading from her book, “Katy and the Big Snow,” which was inspired by Gloucester — and later playing a track of eider ducks’ calls, both available to Harborwalk-ers via smartphones — Kirk abandoned the soundtrack in the face of the midday sun and countless cast of contributors to the creation of Harborwalk to be recognized.
Along with the elected officials, the city council, state legislators and the lieutenant governor, Kirk emphasized the essential contributions of volunteers such as Lise Breen, David Reinlander and Catherine Ryan; they screened the municipal archives, the Sawyer Free Library, the Cape Ann Historical Museum, among other sources of historical material and got permissions to produce the vignettes held by the granite story boards and accessible by smartphone clicks on the QR codes on each location.
Next to Kirk, Harbor Development Director Sarah Garcia was the official closest to the project from the beginning.
Kirk lauded Garcia as “the glue that held the project together,” and noted her “keen ear for the voices of the city” was essential in organizing the chorale that HarborWalkers can hear at stops along the way.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, ext. 3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.