, Gloucester, MA

August 12, 2013

Editorial: Marina study can't slow city push for boat space

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — There may have been a time in which a study essentially striking down an innovative proposal for a floating marina with badly needed Gloucester transient docking space would have been a disappointment.

But the truth is, it was no surprise and certainly not a major disappointment last week when an extensive study carried out by Clean Engineering found all sorts of reasons why the city should not pursue such a project.

For one thing, the study took so long to see through that many residents and even local economic development officials may well have forgotten former board member Phil Cusumano’s proposal — patterned after a project in Maine — was even in the table. For another, it was clear from the start that Cusumano — whose idea was clearly outside the proverbial box — drew virtually no support from key board members who have quietly kept the expansion of the city’s mooring space to a crawl despite calls from city councilors and many residents for needed change.

There is no sound basis by which to question the Clean Engineering study. Indeed, the company took a thorough look at all aspects of the plan, and of the floating marina’s potential sites.

And while Cusumano raises an interesting point regarding the revenue projections — noting that CE’s figures are based only on a projected first year of use, and do not cite figures for succeeding years if the facility drew more and more boaters as it became better known — it is indeed hard to justify sinking an estimated $1.8 million of city money into a facility that could generate a net operations profit of just $1,000 a year, as the study found.

But with this project now off the table, it’s important that waterfront development officials — whether the Waterways Board, whose existence is increasingly harder to justify, or the city’s economic development wings — find space to grow the number of moorings that can welcome day boaters to Gloucester’s downtown.

To his credit, board Chairman Tony Gross vows that will be the case. “We will start planning for ways to increase its public profile to attract more day trippers for next year,” Gross said.

Now, it’s up to Mayor Carolyn Kirk and the City Council to hold him to that promise — and ensuring such plans appear in weeks, not months or years. This is an important economic development need that must be filled now.