GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 29, 2013

Gran Prix to go on

Registration for bicycle race already filling up

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The Gran Prix of Gloucester will roll through Stage Fort Park for its 15th year next month, with permit approval in the rearview mirror after a City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Councilors voted unanimously, 6-0, to approve the permit, with Councilors Bruce Tobey, Melissa Cox and Sefatia Romeo Theken absent. The council’s 3-person subcommittee on planning and development voted unanimously last week to recommend that the full council grant the permit to Essex County Velo, which hosts the event.

Once word got out Wednesday that organizers had received the permit, registration for the race, to be held Sept. 28 and 29, started to filling up.

The subcommittee had created a set of 18 conditions to enforce councilors’ expectations of the Gran Prix crew, which includes requiring Essex County Velo to present a bond before the race for repairs to the field after the event.

“We put a pretty strong list of requirements that they’re going to have to meet,” said Councilor Greg Verga, the subcommittee’s chairman. “I wasn’t satisfied with the corrections in the past few years, but I think the air has been cleared.”

The decision on whether or not to grant the group a permit became contentious after last year’s muddy season left Stage Fort Park somewhat torn up in the wake of the race.

Councilors heard from residents on both sides of the issue at a public hearing preceding the vote Tuesday night.

To satisfy some of the residents’ concerns, the permit also requires that Essex County Velo dispose of all trash collected at the event and provide its own portable toilets. The group must notify owners of all businesses that the race course bypasses. And, the number of entrants must be capped at 1,000 entrants per day.

The permit conditions prohibit the race course from traveling across Half Moon Beach, in the area of the Lucy B. Davis Pathway, on the Elizabeth Smith Garden and Gloucester Garden Club beds, and near the Visitors Welcome Center and the fort.

Race director Paul Boudreau had considered holding the event in other cities while waiting permit approval, but maintained he preferred to hold the race in Gloucester. Registration for the race opened Wednesday afternoon, and two hours later nearly half the 2,000 slots for the two-day event were filled.

Boudreau said none of the conditions were unexpected and they all helped to close a “communication gap” between the race organizers and the city.

“There was nothing unreasonable in there from my standpoint and I think it helps build a good partnership for us with the city of Gloucester in the future,” Boudreau said.

The public hearing, Boudreau added, helped him understand and address residents’ worries.

“I’ve learned a lot about some of the opponents and about what their concerns are,” Boudreau said. “It was a hard process, but it was a process we all had to go through for the better.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.