, Gloucester, MA

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October 10, 2012

Editorial: Is 'Gran Prix' worth the aftermath?

Yes, there’s a bit of cache in knowing that, in the annual Gran Prix of Gloucester, our city plays host to one of the leading “cyclocross” bicycling events in the Northeast.

Yes, the nearly 1,000 riders who participated in the 2012 Gran Prix undoubtedly bring some cash to spend in local restaurants and other local businesses. And yes, the organizers and sponsors of the event – the Beverly-based Essex County Velo organization — pay Gloucester’s Wolf Hill Home & Garden Center to clean up the damage, raking out the ruts and reseeding Stage Fort — after the event is past.

But it’s time that city officials really took a good, hard look at whether that “cleanup,” which, through the reseeding, will take months to heal, is really worth whatever the city takes in through permit fees, and considering that the damage cuts into residents’ enjoyment of the park for several weeks each fall, and really into next spring.

It would be one thing if this cycling event were confined to a single track in one corner of Stage Fort. But it’s not — the racing trails wind over the baseball fields and around the visitor’s center, and the gouges left behind are deep.

Race director Paul Bordeau says organizers take the races’ aftermath seriously, promising that “it’s going to look better after we’re done with it.”

But when? And why should city residents and taxpayers have to give up any of the Gloucester’s prime aesthetics and functionality whenever the Gran Prix rips through it each fall?

Those are questions city officials should consider before next year’s cyclocross permits hit the table.

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