Masthead Friends of Good Harbor

Good Harbor Marsh

Encompassing an immense area of approximately 1,100 acres, the Good Harbor marsh and watershed represents a challenging problem and an uncommon opportunity. The problem is that this coastal habitat with all its diversity and its many tributaries is threatened. The opportunity is to restore and enhance what is one of the most attractive and beneficial resources in the City of Gloucester.  With so much evidence of decline and neglect, there is a clear and compelling need for leadership in marsh protection, preservation, and restoration for Good Harbor and its watershed area.

Good Harbor Marsh Studies and Reports

The Good Harbor marsh and watershed is a significantly threatened coastal area with strong evidence of decline and neglect. In the past decade, at least four reports have been issued in which Good Harbor was targeted as a prime area for environmental restoration and protection.  These studies are posted on the FOGH web site in the Resources Section.

Great Marsh Study

In 2007, the Division of Ecological Restoration, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, produced the Great Marsh Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan for communities in the Great Marsh region of Massachusetts’ North Shore. Eight projects identified in this study are in the Good Harbor Marsh and Wetland area.

* The parcel at 70-74 Thatcher Road (listed as Site 177) is identified for its need and potential as a restoration site but not as a likely candidate because of private ownership (which would be remedied by the Good Harbor Gateway Project).
* The adjacent marshland east of Witham Street is also listed (Site 179) as open water and wetland, an area historically diked off to create an impounded pond wherein the culvert under Witham Street limits the tidal flow to the upstream marsh and restricts tidal exchange.
* Other Good Harbor areas are listed as well: the area of historically-filled salt marsh along the western edge of the municipal parking lot at Good Harbor Beach (Site 181); the severely degrade area west of Marina Drive (Site 182); the degraded area west of Hartz Road (Site 201); the remnant marsh south of the Stop and Shop Plaza (Sites 204 and 422); and the wetland north of Good Harbor Beach and south of Route 127A impounded by the parking lot driveway (Site 205).

Audubon Society Study

Audubon Society Study. Prepared by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 2003, the Comprehensive River and Stream Habitat Restoration Report identifies 225 projects in the City of Gloucester which are potential restoration sites. The focus of the report is on Gloucester’s wetlands and waterways and the purpose is to identify impaired or degraded sites which need to be returned to their natural ecological condition to produce healthy habitats and civic benefits. Nine of the projects are in the Good Harbor marsh area, and one of the projects listed for restoration is the parcel at 70-74 Thatcher Road.

City of Gloucester Study

In 2005, a comprehensive study of the Good Harbor marsh and watershed was undertaken as a collaboration of four City departments: Health Department, Conservation Commission, Shellfish Department, and Engineering Department. Funded by Coastal Zone Management, it was called the CZM Coastal Nonpoint Source Assessment Report. Its purpose was to serve as a first step in providing long term protection for the Good Harbor Drainage Area and Beach. The report documented water quality problems due to storm water runoff and pollution from sewers, lawn care, highway maintenance, commercial activity, construction, the golf course, congregating waterfowl, and dog walking on the beach. The major finding in the report was the documentation of low salinity levels and brackish water in the salt marsh ecosystem. Among the recommendations in the report were the following: need for further assessment of freshwater flow to the area, recommendation of new sampling procedures at Saratoga Creek, removal of dog waste on the beach, development of a beach management plan, changes in catch basin cleaning and street sweeping, establishing a local ordinance pertaining to infiltration runoff, public education, and an information kiosk at the entrance to Good Harbor Beach.

Salem Sound Coastwatch Study

Also in 2005, the staff of Salem Sound Coastwatch undertook a study in Gloucester with a comparative assessment of salt marsh at Good Harbor and on Eastern Point. The report was entitled Wetland Health Assessment Toolbox Program Report and utilized the WHAT toolbox as the framework for the study. Although Good Harbor was the reference site, while Eastern Point was the restoration site, the report stated that at the beginning of the collection of baseline information in 2002-2003 the ecological integrity of Good Harbor was not impaired, but by 2005 the data indicated “somewhat impaired” placing Good Harbor salt marsh in a category to be studied further due to stressors such as degradation of water quality. Because of this finding, the Friends of Good Harbor has sponsored a marsh walk with the Executive Director of Salem Sound Coastwatch and is proposing a new comprehensive assessment and bio-monitoring project to be conducted at Good Harbor marsh.

Vision of FOGH

The Friends of Good Harbor propose to launch a comprehensive campaign to transform the management of the marsh and wetlands. The Good Harbor Gateway Project is the linchpin of the program. The proposed acquisition of the property on Thatcher Road presents the rare opportunity to stop further development in the marsh and begin the process of restoring the filled land to its original habitat in one of the most visible locations imaginable. The vision of FOGH is that once the property is under the ownership of the City of Gloucester it will not only be protected in perpetuity but it will be restored with a small section serving as a sign and symbol for passersby to see, “Welcome to the Good Harbor Marsh and Wetlands.” It can be an educational station with a message to all who pass – walkers, bicyclists, motorists, and beachgoers – reminding everyone of the nature of this beautiful but fragile environment on which we all depend. The Friends envision the engagement of volunteers in monitoring the marsh, study projects to restore the marsh, and enhancements to enable the public to learn and care for the marsh

Zoning Map of Good Harbor Marsh Area

Gloucester Zoning Map 39