A Winchester man has proposed a 10-mile bike path route idea that would wind through Gloucester and Rockport, connecting Stage Fort Park and Halibut State Park while and touching base in Ravenswood Park and Dogtown.
Jeff Dearman is involved in creating bike paths and trails in his own town, including the Winchester Tri Community Greenway bike path, and is an advocate for other towns that might consider the paths. Dearman said he visited Cape Ann and thought it could use a nice trail.
“I am trying to get people to see that bike paths are actually (beneficial) to communities, in providing safe routes to schools, lowering crime rates ... raising property values, and bringing tourism and business to the towns,” Dearman told the Times Thursday.
The proposal is in its very early stages and would require a sign off from numerous committees and officials throughout the region. And, funding would likely pose a problem for the project, according to Steve Winslow, senior project manager for Gloucester’s Open Space and Recreation Planning Committee.
“One of the unfortunate things is at the federal level, they’ve just cut back on transportation funding for this kind of thing,” Winslow said.
The committee has been working on plans to create a network of bike paths and walking trails, called Green Path Network, but funding has created a dilemma in those plans too, making it a long-term project.
“The committee is definitely in support of ideas to support connections around Cape Ann,” Winslow said. “It’s a matter of trying to come up with some resources to make some connections,” he said.
There are some paths in and around Gloucester, which skilled mountain bikers can navigate, according to Winslow. But, the trails usually prove too difficult for casual cyclists.
The newly proposed route idea would begin in Stage Fort Park, travel along Western Avenue in Gloucester, cross the Blynman Bridge, then hook a left turn to pass Gloucester High School.
The trail would pass by Oval Playground and Oak Grove Cemetery, cross under Route 128, and travel up Cherry Street into the Dogtown woods. Bikers would pass by Manning Park, then follow Rowe Avenue to Drumlin Road and Landmark Lane. The path would run past the Yankee Clipper Inn and up the side of Granite Street, then end in a loop around Halibut State Park -- bicycles are currently prohibited inside of the park due to a smaller park space narrow trails, according to a park interpreter.
Peter Webber, Senior Vice President at Cape Ann’s Chamber of Commerce, said developers have struggled to connect Gloucester and Rockport through trails in the past because of tricky roadways and surrounding land.
“A lot of people over the years have been interested in developing trails and identifying existing trails,” Webber said. “There’s been discussion, but in my time, they’ve never advanced to far.”
Webber said major problems arise along Route 127.
“You’ve got watershed lands on both sides and there’s not a lot of shoulder along the road for either walkers or bicyclists,” Webber said.
Dearman said he hopes a member of the community or local officials might take charge on the project and explore the route he has proposed.
“I’m honestly not in the position to do anything official,” Dearman said. “But, I would like someone from the community to take this idea and step up to the plate, pitch it to local officials, and get the ball rolling.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.