The second Gloucester Maritime Summit, running today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cruiseport Gloucester, includes a great mix of Gloucester’s and Massachusetts’ mindpower for, as Wednesday’s Page 1 story noted, taking a step back and discussing the city’s potential and choices for growing its waterfront economy.
And Sarah Garcia, the city’s harbor planning director, has done a good job in assembling both the visiting speakers and especially local panelists, with such a diverse group as Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo, Ann Molloy of Neptune’s Harvest, Niaz Dory of the Gloucester-based Northwest Marine Alliance, and other front-line waterfront business operators like Vince Mortillaro of Mortillaro Lobster Co. and Intershell’s Monte Rome.
But while big-picture topics such as climate change and the new trends seen by marine science researchers and fishermen in the oceans can provide an important backdrop to this conference, and are certainly factors for looking to the future, it’s also important that this conference generate practical ideas for dealing with Gloucester’s waterfront today. And, yes, that must include discussing viable ideas for the city-owned I-4 C-2 site, perhaps the prospects for at least easing, if not lifting, the state’s Designated Port Area restrictions, raising the prospect of adding recreational boating slips that would indeed provide new avenues for tourism, and at least exploring the feasibility of a potential boat-building or state-of-the-art marine maintenance facility like the project raised conceptually by Susanne Altenburger and her Phil Bolger and Friends corporation.
Garcia noted that the summit, coming 15 months after the first such event in November 2011, should help to “seed programs and ideas we will work on for the next year.” And it should. Indeed, some things on Gloucester’s harborfront have already improved since the last summit — including the opening of Endicott College’s Gloucester campus at 33 Commercial St., bringing a new academic component to the city’s harbor and downtown. That alone should open some doors to new potential officials had not explored in the past.
But it’s important that, while exploring the big picture and long-term potential of Gloucester’s waterfront, participants don’t forget the very practical reality that, between a fishing economic disaster, a still vacant I-4, C-2, and other issues, the city’s waterfront needs are front and center – right now. Let’s hope this summit provides short-term answers and solutions as well.