Two months ago, there seemed a better than 50-50 chance that the Gloucester Gran Prix, a world-class cycling and cyclocross event that rolls into Stage Fort Park this weekend, might be headed elsewhere.
A number of residents who first expressed concern with the damage to the park and the pace of the post-racing cleanup last fall, renewed their objections to the way the event had been handled in the past, a number of city councilors — notably Greg Verga, Joe Ciolino and Bob Whynott — took up their complaints, and the two sides seemed at loggerheads, with Gran Prix coordinator and Essex Velo chief Paul Boudreau understandably talking with Salem officials about utilizing the Salem Willows park as a potential alternative.
But then a not-so-funny and positive thing happened.
Both sides actually talked, met for a site walk along with a number of cyclocross supporters at Stage Fort, and both started talking about some compromises. After a few tweaks in the course to avoid some of Stage Fort’s sensitive areas, and an agreement to secure a bond to cover cleanup costs, the Gloucester Gran Prix remains in Gloucester — and is set to welcome up to 1,500 riders and even more spectators for racing on Saturday and Sunday.
Along the way, the cyclocross event picked up open and public support from the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and from Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who declared the Gran Prix a “destination” event that Gloucester should make every effort to keep. And indeed it has.
When the races gear up Saturday morning, this year’s races will no doubt bring a number of winners. But they have also brought a significant victory before the first champ is crowned. This year’s Gran Prix has shown us all how two sides can indeed come together — and how local government can and should work toward saying “yes,” not “no,” as Gloucester has too often done in the past.
Let’s hope we hear that answer to more and more proposals and projects going forward.