GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 4, 2012

City, Tarr push for Boulevard seawall assistance

GLOUCESTER — With a quick look, any passer-by might notice the dilapidated edges of the Stacy Boulevard seawall.

Then, there is the waterside pavement near the Blynman Bridge, roped off after having fallen into a slant, the edging tipped downward, pulling apart sections of the steel railing.

But the erosion causing this uneven ground is actually taking place, gradually, far beneath sea level. Almost a century ago, granite blocks were stacked into a seawall, with mud used as cement, and no footing, foundation or concrete core. Over the years, water rushed against the wall during storms. Day to day, the water rushed, too, disintegrating the mud, leaving gaps and holes, according to Department of Public Works Director Mike Hale.

Hale said a team of engineer divers found major voids between the granite slaps, piled up long ago like Jenga game blocks, then loosened by water erosion.

“You can reach in 13 feet with a measuring staff (in some places) before you hit anything solid,” Hale said. “I don’t know if there’s any imminent danger, but there’s always a risk associated with any infrastructure and that risk grows as the infrastructure decays.”

Recognizing the crannies, cracks and crooked paths, as signs of decay, Hale said city officials have concluded the wall must be fixed. Still, even with all parties agreeing on the desperate cause, one issue arises: funding.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk at her State of the City address Monday night stressed that city officials are prepared to commence the project as soon as funding arrives, calling on the state to help out.

According to Hale, the city could toss in about a half million dollars in funding, just one tenth of the estimated $5 million it would cost to repair the wall, spanning from Stage Fort Park to the area just past the Blynman Bridge.

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