The word that the state’s Seaport Advisory Council has now formally approved a grant of $5.6 million for Gloucester to carry out a major restoration project along Stacy Boulevard and the Blynman Canal represents a significant and overdue infrastructure step for the city.
The city’s 20 percent — or $1.12 million — cost share in what is really now a $6.72 million project also stands as a solid investment in a project that has rightfully loomed high on Gloucester’s infrastructure priority list for at least the last two years.
And the grant is an important Election Week boost for Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who had teased during her re-election run that a “major announcement” regarding the Boulevard was pending — even as challenger Mac Bell justifiably raised questions regarding the appearance and safety of one of Gloucester’s signature thoroughfares.
Some may view the Boulevard — the greenway and walkway that parallels Western Avenue — as largely a showcase for tourism. And it carries that element, graced by the iconic Fishermen’s Memorial Man at the Wheel statue and distinctive Cenotaph, and the touching Fishermen’s Wives statue, whose figures look longingly out to the harbor, which is closer to where the bulk of the work will be done.
But it is a showpiece for residents as well, and — as today’s Page 1 story notes — an improved Boulevard may well provide a lift for Western Avenue businesses, and boost the spirits and legitimate safety fears of those who walk it on a regular or even occasional basis.
Look, the Boulevard’s crumbling seawall, railings and sidewalks have long been a safety hazard, and their condition has only gotten worse, not better, through the pounding of one storm after another in recent years.
But it’s fading condition and yellow caution tape blocking access to some parts of the walkway at the seaway had also become a civic embarrassment – a sign of a city that didn’t care about its condition.
That hasn’t been the case. Indeed, Kirk and Public Works Director Mike Hale have long talked about the very project they’re about the pursue, but the city had not been able to prioritize that level of price tag.
Thanks to Thursday’s Seaport grant, and the city’s added commitment, that overdue project will now become a reality. Let the work begin.