Describing Gloucester Harbor as presenting “significant opportunities and unrealized potential,” the city’s Recreational Boating Committee has generated new concepts for elevating Gloucester as a recreational and transient boating port.

The committee, in an advisory report to Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, identified five specific areas the city should focus on to improve and sustain a robust recreational boating trade as part of revitalizing the city’s waterfront: facilities, the Annisquam River, services, marketing, and partnerships with private property owners around the harbor.

“Gloucester will always be a commercial fishing port and will always be the oldest seaport in America,” said James Destino, the city’s chief administrative officer and a member of the committee. “But we have to find a way to make more room for recreational boating. It’s a proven economic driver. We need to have a conversation on how to do it better.”

The committee report mirrors conclusions from the recent independent audit of Gloucester Harbormaster Jim Caulkett’s department, particularly those that were highly critical of that department’s management of the city moorings system, and flatly states the department has to improve its level of customer service.

“We have to do a better job of being friendlier to recreational boaters,” Destino said. “That’s particularly true in the area of moorings management.

Key to success

The report was even more to the point.

“To ensure overall success, the committee unanimously agreed that the Harbormaster’s office take ownership of the recommendations and long-term goals outlined in this report,” it stated. “Improved customer service towards residents and transient mariners is easily remedied through the use of appropriate training, coupled with strong and effective leadership.”

“The Harbormaster’s office is the key to our success,” Destino said.

The report does not set out a timeline or prioritize the recommendations, nor does it discuss potential sources of funding necessary to accomplish many of its goals.

Partnerships needed

It does point out the difficulty of re-imagining the harbor while dealing with potential restrictions contained within the city’s Designated Port Area and the fact that more than 90 percent of the parcels ringing the city’s harbor are privately owned.

“That’s why the partnerships with private owners, if we can build them, are so important,” Destino said. “It’s an aggressive plan, but hopefully we can find partners out there.”

The report listed several possibilities, many of them in East Gloucester.

They include management and construction of large-boat transient dockage at the Americold plant on East Main Street, as well as additional dockage and mooring space in Pirates Cove and the city-owned water sheet off the Rocky Neck parking lot.

Other options are possible mixed-use development allowances at Gloucester Marine and at the site of Capt. Joe’s at Cripple Cove in return for permanent transient boating slips.

Additional sites for potential partnerships, according to the report, include Eastern Point and Annisquam yacht clubs; Cape Ann’s Marina Resort; and the city-owned I-4,C-2 parcel on Rogers Street (possibly in conjunction with the water sheet off the neighboring Building Center).

Dock and dredging

Perhaps the most innovative idea in the report is to consider creating a community boat house — possibly similar to the house boats moored along the Annisquam River — and a dock upon Ten Pound Island that could host the Gloucester High School and YMCA community sailing and boating skills programs, as well as other public programs and access for rowing and kayaking.

The report called for the creation of a waterfront welcome center, with the Harbor Loop area the most likely site. It also underlined the need for more transient docking and short-term tie-up space and a “best in class” recreational boat marina with “an ancillary restaurant, lounge, entertainment, mixed-use staging area, transient dock slips, dumpster, ice and water all deemed essential.”

It also said dredging the Annisquam River is necessary because “it has become dangerously low in certain areas and further fill-in could cause the river to become impassible.”

The report urged the city to restore all public landings along the harbor to accommodate water taxis, launches and dinghies and provide more public access to the water. It also recommends an upgraded marketing plan and increased presence on social media.

The committee, formed last spring by Romeo Theken, includes Destino, Tobin Dominick of Cape Ann’s Marina; Phil Cusumano, a captain and artist; Ralph Pino, an attorney and member of the Waterways Board; life-long mariner Bob Alves; and Ward 3 City Councilor Steven G. LeBlanc.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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