Almost 1,000 riders, about a mile of track, and two days of racing have left dark muddy cuts on the face of Stage Fort Park after the Gran Prix of Gloucester cyclocross competition last weekend.
The races, known colloquially as the New England Nationals, draws cyclists from across the country and from Europe. It’s one of the largest cyclocross events in the country and is run by Beverly cycling organization Essex County Velo.
But, two roughly 8-hour days of racing by around 950 riders Cwatched by a thousand or so spectators can tear up a park, especially in wet weather. This year, the races, essentially the steeplechase, left winding gouges through Stage Fort Park.
Essex County Velo (ECV), said race director Paul Bordeau, pays Gloucester landscaping company Wolf Hill Home & Garden to rake out the ruts and reseed the grass each year. This year isn’t any different. Wolf Hill will be out spraying grass seed and raking out the course by the weekend at the latest.
Some residents think ECV’s landscaping doesn’t go far enough.
“There isn’t enough money to fix this,” said David Dow, an Essex Street resident who uses the park almost every day.
Dow, a wiry man with white hair, walks the park trials with his dog. Every year for the last five or so years, the cyclocross races have left Stage Fort Park scarred. He stood near a muddy slope, cut between of the trees separating the park and the walkway by the harbor. That cutout, he said, is for the races, and it washes out when it rains.
“It shouldn’t be allowed,” he said.
Even with the landscaping, Dow said the park doesn’t return to normal until the spring. It’s a public park, he said, and it shouldn’t be destroyed just for a weekend race.