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August 7, 2012

HarborWalk comes alive

Hi-tech features add spark to city's story

The city’s new HarborWalk, hauling Gloucester tourism boldly into the digital, mixed-media modern age, past 42 granite “story moments” conveying perspectives on the nation’s oldest fishing port, is set to be dedicated and open officially on Thursday.

But as entree to the walk and the “stopping stations” is free, the information and technology are in place so that a smartphone and the free app (information available in the brochure for the walk) allows the visitor to click the QR code at Stopping Station No. 2, for example, and bring up poetic summer resident T.S. Eliot’s recorded voice reading an excerpt from the “Four Quartets” from 1941.

As if to signal the complexity of the project and the city it compartmentalizes into chapters or volumes — linking the Greasy Pole; Salt, the prolific, mother humpback whale of Stellwagen Bank; Virginia Lee Burton, the author of the Gloucester inspired children’s classic, “Katy and the Big Snow;” Joan of Arc and the masters of paint, invention and perseverance; and the city’s epic hero fisherman, adventurer and bartender, Howard Blackburn — Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who has walked the walk for the walk in the face of much municipal disagreement about its priority and value, has scheduled four consecutive days of dedications.

“This isn’t a power walk, you have to immerse yourself and linger,” said Kirk. “You can’t drive by this, you could spend a week easily.”

Taking it all in at once is about as feasible as reading an encyclopedia from A to Z. It’s a bad idea to even try, Kirk advised Monday.

She said the germ of the idea for the HarborWalk was firmly planted in 2008 in her first months in office when Kirk organized a series of listening sessions to tease out the public will for the future of the working waterfront.

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