By James Niedzinski
---- — GLOUCESTER — Three months after the Gran Prix of Gloucester cyclocross competition last fall, city officials are grappling with how the system for repairing historic Stage Fort Park after the event can be improved.
The cyclocross consists of two days of eight hour competitions over a course stretching nearly two miles throughout the park. Nearly 1,000 cyclists competed in last year’s event. And Paul Boudreau, president of Essex County Velo, which organizes the annual races, agreed there is still much work to be done in the park and the weather is not working in his favor.
”We had two days of torrential rain in 2012, we haven’t really had that before,” he said.
This past fall’s races touched off a storm of controversy over damage done to the park.
Boudreau acknowledged the aftermath of this past year’s competition, including thick mud tracks throughout the park, was significantly worse than in the past. He also attributed part of the problem as a communication issue, saying he was not made aware of the damage that was done to the park.
“I’m sensitive to what the residents of Gloucester think, it is a major concern,” he said.
To that end, Boudreau will be presenting a 14-point plan to the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee to address the park’s problems.
The meeting is slated for Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Lyceum & Sawyer Free Library.
Boudreau said he regularly hires Wolf Hill Home and Garden of Gloucester to reseed and repair the park. So far, the company has done some reseeding since the race in October, but more leveling and reseeding needs to be done come springtime, Boudreau said.
Mark Cole, the assistant director of public works said the area had to dry out for a few days before any work could be done.
“A lot of it just needs to be touched up at this point,” he said.
But David Dow, a longtime Gloucester resident, said he is not satisfied with the work done to repair the park so far. Dow said the reseeding efforts have been ineffective and there are still deep tire marks throughout the park. Dow, who conducted rough measurements, said there is about 111,000 feet of damaged trail.
Earlier, Dow told the Times he does not think there is enough money to cover the damages done to the park after this past year’s races.
Boudreau acknowledged that this year’s cleanup has been more costly – as much as three times the repair costs his organization shelled out in the aftermath of the 2011 competition.
But, in preparing to address the planning and development panel, Boudreau noted that the cyclocross brings in significant revenue to the city, especially hotels and restaurants.
He worked with Gary David, an associate professor of sociology at Bentley University, to find the economic impact Grand Prix Gloucester has in the city. The two found that about 40 percent of poll respondents said they used accommodations other than their homes over the weekend of the races.
Dow, meanwhile, said he is not anti-biking and does not want to see the race move out of Gloucester. He just quicker actions taken and more repairs done within the park.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.