To the editor:
It seems a little ironic that a discussion about potential negative consequences that may come with a National Register listing is being held in City Hall, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places list since 1973. Is it too simplistic to ask what restrictions associated with the National Register have there been that have hindered any work or changes the city has performed on City Hall? I ask the same question about the Annisquam footbridge, which has been listed on the Register since 1983. Fisherman’s Memorial (1996)? Is there a problem when the city needs to perform repairs or street work in the Central Gloucester Historic District, East Gloucester Square Historic District, First Parish Burial Ground, Front Street Block, Fitz Henry Lane House, Oak Grove Cemetery, Rocky Neck Historic District — all sites that have been on the Register for years/decades?
I don’t understand the grants concerns. At the March 20 Planning and Development meeting, Mike Hale brought up the issue of grants and possible strings attached to certain grants. He mentioned the Stage Fort Park grant that the city declined because of grant conditions that the city did not think were favorable for the city. My take on that is that Mr. Hale made clear the point that the city does not have to accept grants if it doesn’t like the conditions attached. As I understand the process, no grant gets accepted by the city without Council oversight — Budget and Finance and full City Council.
I don’t see the increased tourism issue, either. Have any of the 35 currently listed Gloucester sites seen an increase in visitors due to the listing?
Dogtown is already quite well advertised. It is listed as an attraction with Essex Heritage and an outdoor recreation site on the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway Corridor. It’s my opinion that Essex Heritage sites are far more well-known and actively promoted than any National Register site and I just can’t see a National Register listing attracting more visitors than the Essex Heritage listings. There are also currently advertised guided tours and Dogtown is featured on many hiking/biking group sites. Dogtown has been featured on or in: WBUR, TripAdvisor, Yankee Magazine, Roadside America, New England Historical Society ... for examples.
Whatever the outcome of the nomination issue, I appreciate the time and effort that the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Dogtown Advisory Committee volunteers have put into this issue during the past 21/2 years. The Commission went before Budget and Finance and the City Council for the survey grant in 2016. In November 2017 there was a well-publicized informational meeting for the public regarding the efforts of the Historical Commission to nominate Dogtown to the National Register. That meeting was preceded by a front-page story in the Gloucester Daily Times. Both committees hold monthly public meetings. Documents are posted on the city’s site (the nomination form is a great read for anyone interested in Dogtown’s history). I struggle to understand why objections and concerns are just being voiced now — by both residents and city officials —after so much volunteer time and effort has been put into this.
IF YOU GO
What: Public hearing on Gloucester Historical Commission’s application to add Dogtown to the National Register of Historic Places.
When: Tuesday, April 9; hearing is part of regular City Council meeting that begins at 7 p.m.
Where: Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, 9 Dale Ave.