, Gloucester, MA

November 23, 2012

The Mayor's Desk: Digital help in exploring Dogtown

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

---- — On Thanksgiving day, we like to take a long family walk.

There are so many beautiful walking spots in Gloucester but there is one walk we had never done before. My mother-in-law’s suggestion, who was visiting from Virginia, was to find the Babson Boulders in Dogtown.

This idea was met with enthusiasm and we set out to plan our excursion. First up was to find a good map. We soon learned that there are many good maps of Dogtown which is a 5-square mile swath of woods and trails in the north of Gloucester. But finding a good map of the Boulder locations was a little more difficult.

The best map we discovered was produced and copyrighted in 2008 by Eric Bickernicks and can be found at The map has topographical marks, is neat and easy to read, and each Boulder is pinpointed to its GPS coordinate, which is listed. Using the map to plot our journey, we quickly realized what a challenge it was going to be with the three generations of Kirks.

According to the map, we could take a southern loop or a northern loop. The southern loop would allow us to see five Boulders in a relatively short walk. The northern loop was considerably longer (probably ten times longer!) and much more ambitious. In deference to the grandparents, we chose the shorter route for starters.

We met at the end of the Blackburn Industrial Park road, and parked near the communications tower. With octogenarians, quadrupeds, grandchildren, and adults in tow, we set out to find Babson Boulders.

Coming upon each one was a delight. At every stop we tried to arrange the family members into a photograph that was suited for the saying on the boulder. “Be clean” was reserved for the children and teenagers among us. “Save” was a message from the grandparents to the grandchildren. “Get a job” was another one that we all insisted the teenagers pose with. “Be true” is one where we took photos of siblings.

The one we had the most fun with was “Help mother.” It took a while to make sure we captured all the right mother/child combinations from the 80+ year old mother with her 50+ year old sons, to me with my children, to my niece whose photo we e-mailed to her mother at that moment. Our favorite of all is the picture of grandmother with grandchildren with the message to “Help mother.”

As we made our way around the trail, my in-laws had many questions about the Babson Boulders, and Roger Babson who commissioned them.

On the trail, we came upon a “Digital Dogtown” marker, part of a project pulled together by local Eagle Scout Alan Davis. On the marker is a QR code. This is that squiggly square that you see more and more on products, advertisements, in the media, etc. I put my iPhone up to the QR code, and up popped the story of Roger Babson, which we were able to learn about at our fingertips on our walk.

There are 12 Digital Dogtown markers, and they all lead to the city of Gloucester’s website where the stories of the Babson Boulders, Roger Babson, Dogtown, Whale’s Jaw and more can be accessed.

As an aside, the Harborwalk markers also include QR codes for accessing more in depth information about the city’s history, traditions, arts and culture.

As we looped back to our cars, we were invigorated by the walk, inspired by the simplicity of Roger Babson’s words to us, and ready for our family Thanksgiving meal.

Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.