GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 27, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: New England charm at Good Harbor

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

---- — Summer is fast-approaching, and we are finalizing the game plan for the Good Harbor Beach footbridge, which is still out of commission.

One of the steps that we have had to go through is obtaining approval from the Conservation Commission. The footbridge washes out periodically, and ConCom has basically said, “this is the last temporary fix.”

The city needs to come back with a permanent plan that addresses the resource area, takes into consideration the structural integrity of the rest of the bridge, and perhaps is redesigned to withstand the types of storms and tidal surges we are experiencing.

Meanwhile, we need to get a fix in place immediately. We were looking at a $65,000 wooden repair that would be done by outside contractors, and then an idea emerged to use an aluminum span on the broken part of the bridge which would put the cost of the repair at about $20,000.

The aluminum span idea was worth considering, but I felt I needed some input quickly. Now, I never blog myself, and I don’t participate in anonymous message boards or blogs, but the goodmorninggloucester blog offered the opportunity to put up a quick poll, review comments, and get some feedback.

Simultaneously, this newspaper ran a story about the choices we’re facing, and I also Tweeted and Facebooked about it. It wasn’t soon after that the responses, questions and ideas started pouring in.

An artist sent a picture of the beautiful Milton Avery painting of a couple walking across the Good Harbor Beach Footbridge. Another person sent a picture of what was thought to be the actual wooden bridge that washed away and into the marsh by Stop & Shop. Turns out, that was the section of the bridge that washed away in 2006! This past winter it has moved into a position where it can be retrieved and DPW will remove it.

People sent links to other “synthetic” solutions and other wooden bridge examples, and a display of beach footbridges from around the world was posted on goodmorninggloucester. A lot of questions came up as well.

Cost is clearly a factor that is on people’s minds. $65,000 seemed to be outrageous for the wooden fix. That estimate is for an outsourced solution, i.e., not using our DPW.

The question of the Magnolia Pier came up. This is one of those quirky things about how our waterways are governed. The city has responsibility for the Good Harbor Footbridge, but the Harbormaster and the Waterways Board have responsibility for the Magnolia Pier!

And then of course, some people wanted a more cost effective solution that preserves the iconic character of the footbridge. A couple of people suggested a “buy a plank” program where if you got married there, you could buy an engraved plank to help offset the cost of the repairs.

DPW Director Mike Hale and I met and decided to use DPW to do a wooden repair. I have directed him to retask some of his staff, order the materials and start immediately. While this will save the city about $60,000 it reduces the manpower that DPW can devote to all those other things citizens find important (which is why outsourcing was an attractive option).

We will formulate a Building Committee as required by the City Charter and pursue a permanent redesign. The Committee can take the time to go through all ideas, and do this right.

Using our Yankee ingenuity we will preserve New England charm in a cost effective manner.

Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.