Each September, Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park has served since 1999 as host to the still-growing Gran Prix of Gloucester, a two-day series of cycling races that draws up to a 1,000 riders, and has thrilled thousands of spectators as well.
In the process, it also showcases the city of Gloucester — and one of its most scenic spots — while bringing in visitors who dine in the city’s restaurants and patronize other local businesses as well.
Yet many times — especially after a rainy weekend – the resulting conditions draw shrieks from neighbors and those who seek to use the park in the days that follow. That especially seemed the case last year, when the damage caught more than the usual attention from residents and officials alike.
Now, with permits for this year’s cyclocross still unresolved, Paul Boudreau — president of the Essex County Velo nonprofit group that coordinates — is looking toward Salem as a potential alternative in case Gloucester turns the event away. And that’s understandable. But before either the city or Boudreau takes any such drastic steps, let’s hope for a spirit of compromise so that this event will stay here, where it belongs.
Boudreau and his group have indeed taken steps to repair the park after the event, paying more than $6,000 to Wolf Hill landscaping to repair the expected and very real damage. But the timing of those repairs has not met the needs of Stage Fort users. Perhaps if organizers put up a bond of $10,000 to cover any damage costs, those needs could be addressed more realistically by both Wolf Hill and the city’s Department of Public Works, so that park recovers sooner to be enjoyed by all in the fall.
City officials should work to keep this event in Gloucester, yet race organizers also need to recognize the city’s needs. Let’s hope they can reach an agreement that works for all.