, Gloucester, MA

July 25, 2013

Letter: Speak up to protect Stage Fort Park

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Did members of your family pay for Stage Fort Park?

They did if they were Gloucester residents between 1898 and 1938. Before 1898 this land was privately owned by the Hough and Barnes families. It was taken by eminent domain to create a park for “the benefit of the city of Gloucester and the inhabitants thereof” and to secure this historic site, “to be preserved as a permanent memorial of the first settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony” in 1623,” according to the deed for taking of Stage Fort Park property, March 15, 1898.

State Act of 1897 Chapter 459 required a vote by Gloucester residents to accept the park land and the debt incurred in its taking. Citizens of Gloucester voted for the park and paid this tax assessment for 40 years, according to the Gloucester city archives.

A Times editorial of Dec. 8, 1897 stated, “we are well pleased with the vote as it clearly shows that Gloucester has the interests of her people at heart and thousands in the future will bless when this beautiful tract of land came into possession of the city.” Editorial comments were also made regarding the historic ground, the beautiful marine views, promenades, and providing a “breathing place for your descendants in all the years to come.”

The park, which starts at the Cut bridge, includes land on both sides of Hough Avenue. An old water fountain to the left of the dog park indicates a once cared for area, neglected for years and therefore made unusable. Other materials have been dumped in this area. The small meadow, which school children once used for field day activities, has become a volley ball sand pit.

Some events held at the park have left many areas scarred for months and some areas for a longer time. Our park is being treated like a spare back lot, to be chopped up and repurposed.

Will anything be left, any expanse of grass, any path made safe for walking, any peaceful beautiful view, any escape from a busy, congested inner city — one purpose for which this park was created in 1898, when very few owned an automobile? Is the inner city less congested now? Isn’t it still our park?

Our ancestors gave us this unique and beautiful park. Please thank them by speaking up for its protection and preservation, for both present and future generations of Gloucester residents.