Gloucester, visiting boaters, and a lot of area drivers have something to celebrate these days.
A state Department of Transportation repair project that virtually shut down water passage beneath the Blynman Bridge has been completed, a week earlier than the scheduled eight weeks. The bridge is open again to boaters who had been forced to head north around Cape Ann rather than down the Annisquam River and out through the Blynman Canal — the Cut — to reach Gloucester Harbor.
Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro confirmed Friday that the $600,000 bridge project, permitted to run through April 15, was completed in time for the bridge to open last Sunday night, April 7. The opening means that drivers crossing the 114-year-old drawbridge no longer have to deal with the cones and single lanes that had spanned the bridge's roadway since February, but it does mean, of course, they'll be stuck waiting on boat traffic again as it passes through the canal.
"We're open for business," Ciarametaro proclaimed, noting the impact the bridge and its water traffic can have on Gloucester's recreational boating scene and overall economy.
The lockdown had limited passage under the bridge to just 4 feet, 10 inches at its center point — a height that forced the vast majority of boats to take the long route up the Annisquam, out Ipswich Bay and around Cape Ann to reach any points east and south of Gloucester and Rockport.
As constable of the Babson watershed, Joe Orange has long helped provide protections that have included chasing out trespassers, hauling people out of the reservoir and taking other actions to enforce the sanctity of the Babson and Goose Cove reservoirs and their surroundings.
Despite all of those efforts, he was not able to fully protect a sign commemorating his own service to the watershed environment. The sign, dedicated in September 2007, was ultimately damaged by vandals who have long plagued parts of Dogtown, including by the reservioirs.
Now a new sign has been put in place by a group of community activists, headed by Bob Ryan, general manager of the Cape Ann Transportation Authority. The sign was dedicated Sunday, April 7, amid the woods and above the Babson Reservoir that Orange — at the ripe age of 97 — still holds so dear. And he was certainly on hand for the honor.
"Joe has been the steward and guardian for Babson Reservoir for his entire life," Ryan said.
Two days later, Orange made his way to an event at City Hall. Still wearing the familiar shorts he regularly sports in the field, Orange took to the podium and was the first person to speak to the City Council in the public hearing on adding Dogtown to the National Register of Historic Places, and he did so waving a law book that outlined what can or can't be done with the property.
Ultimately, Orange said, the council "couldn't touch" the property with any new strings that might affect its open space — and they didn't. The recognition application failed on a 6-2 vote.
On the clock
Here's an idea Cape Ann's communities may all want to adopt for town meetings and, in Gloucester's case, for protracted public hearings.
When the Dogtown hearing began Tuesday night, City Council President Paul Lundberg outlined the ground rules for speakers who were already lining up in Kyrouz Auditorium — each would have three minutes, and that was it. There was, however, no timekeeper to monitor the proceedings, until Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc, who represents Ward 3, came up with a solution.
Taking his laptop, he turned it toward the speaker and audience, popping a digital timer up on the screen so the speaker and those within at least the first few rows of the audience could see how much time had expired.
The move wasn't entirely successful. More than one speaker, despite looking right at the clock, rolled well past the three-minute mark to 3:40 and beyond, before Lundberg said the time was up. At least one speaker — there were nearly three dozen in all over a span of close to three hours — kept talking well beyond the four-minute mark, despite Lundberg's call for her to step down so someone else could come forward.
Still, the clock at least put speakers on their guard, and may bode well for other such public speaking events down the line.
All those in favor?
Rotary Trivia time
It's time for residents to brush up on their trivia skills.
The Rotary Club of Gloucester will host a trivia night competition on Friday, April 26, at the Gloucester House Restaurant, 63 Rogers St.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the games will begin at 7 p.m.
Teams of four will compete for the title of Cape Ann trivia champions.
The event will include a special raffle for any team registering before April 19. Early birds will get an extra chance to win.
The registration fee is $100 per team, with proceeds going to support programs of the Gloucester Rotary Club. The night also will feature a 50/50 raffle, a cash bar, and light snacks for purchase. Registration forms may be obtained any Gloucester Rotary Club member or downloaded at www.gloucesterrotary.org.