A couple of weeks ago now, a Rockport resident named James Lane called to talk about his hopes for making a renewed push for a potential connector road that would follow the path of the Old Rockport Road and provide an alternative link from Route 127 — or Rockport's Nugent stretch — toward Blackburn Industrial Park and Gloucester's Route 128 Extension.
I knew Jim — and a number of other Rockport residents, including former Selectman Nick Barletta — had raised the issue in the past, through letters to the editor, and through town officials. But town officials to date have not been willing to gain a sense of support for such a road, through even a non-biding town referendum. Gloucester officials have been wary about even talking about the project at all — largely out of concern for what they see as its potential impact on the Babson Watershed, a city water supply.
So this time Jim was calling with a new idea: If he was able to pull together a survey seeking readers' input on an Olde Rockport Road connector, would the Times be willing to print it, and then compile and present the results?
I had to think a few seconds. While we have endorsed the idea of some type of connector road that would at provide an alternative route through or exit from Blackburn Industrial Park, we have serious questions about the viability of following Olde Rockport Road.
Should we, as Cape Ann's community newspaper, participate in generating input for such a road? Why not?
Why would your community's newspaper do that? Because it fits in with one of our basic duties. As I've often noted, we don't merely seek to cover the news of Glocuester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester, as if we're looking in from the outside and somehow above it all. We're very much a part of our communities as well, and in this case, hosting such a survey offers the chance to step up and take the kind of leadership role that, in my mind, a community newspaper should have.
In many ways, helping to coordinate this survey reminds me of the community election debates we have hosted for Glocuester, Rockport and our state representative races over the past four years. All of those have featured questions based on those submitted by readers — giving readers and voters a unique bit of input into the debates and the election.
It's in that spirit that I agreed to take on this project, which is based on the letter and survey from James Lane that ran in the Times on Wednesday.
Is the survey perfect? No; a couple of the questions might be seen as redundant, but that's OK.
Is it official? Do we know it will bring city or town officials to discuss the issue? No, but if the survey draws a lot of votes — in either direction — it should provide an idea of the level of interest, support or opposition.
If you'd like to weigh in, here are Jim's survey questions. Just respond by emailing your answers, with your name and hometown, to me at email@example.com.
Do you want the Olde Rockport Road developed as part of a Rockport-Gloucester connector road? Yes or no.
If a majority prevails, can we seek to require our town and city officials to meet to discuss ways to move the process forward? Yes or no.
If a majority prevails, can we demand that our town and city officials contact our state lawmakers for help with a feasibility study? Our state officials have indicated they would help if Rockport and Gloucester officials come to an agreement about developing the road. Yes or no.
If a majority prevails, should we seek to have Olde Rockport Road developed as a state road? Yes or no.
We agree that the paramount issue of any development must be concern for the protection of the watershed, and any development of the road would comply with the terms of all the deeds. Yes or no.
As always, let me know what you think — especially about a Rockport connector.
Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you'd like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000 x3438, or firstname.lastname@example.org.