Nothing brings legendary Gloucester fishermen Howard Blackburn’s story to life more than hearing local singer/songwriter Allen Estes belt out a rousing chorus of “You row with your heart, not with your hands” in one of his quintessential Gloucester songs.
Indeed, it’s only appropriate that Estes be among the local musicians performing Thursday, when the city officially opens its new HarborWalk with a 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at the St. Peter’s Square end of new, $1.2 million waterfront walkway.
For one of the walk’s 42 “stopping stations” and “story moments” will now show and tell residents and visitors alike the classic story of Blackburn, who, lost in a winter storm at sea, used only his hands to paddle to shore while carrying his dead mate, and lost his fingers in the process.
Through the new HarborWalk, the city has taken story-telling to an entirely new level, with several “story moments” capturing Gloucester’s history and its legendary local characters through include smart-phone QR codes that deliver videos, audio readings from folks like T.S. Eliot, and all sorts of other hi- and low-tech presentations that are catching the attention of visitors, even before the walk opens.
At least some local businesses on the waterfront are already noting an increase in foot traffic from people finding the walkway — and it’s clear from the photos in Tuesday’s Times that the Main Street stopping stations are capturing pedestrians’ interest as well.
Yes, there has been a fair amount of grumbling over the HarborWalk, with critics noting that it’s two months behind schedule, and that the push to complete it this summer perhaps should not have been the city’ highest priority.
But as Thursday’s and this weekend’s grand openings dawn, it’s clear that that the HarborWalk is a winner that should indeed help generate new and returning business for waterfront and downtown merchants.
That makes it a good investment for the city as a whole — and clearly something to celebrate.