Masthead Friends of Good Harbor

Archived News

Summer and Fall, 2013:

New Look Coming to Good Harbor Beach

Good Harbor Beach with Sign Locations

Good Harbor Beach is getting a face lift. By spring, new welcome signs will greet visitors at major entrances to the beach, and new rules signs will appear at all pedestrian paths to the beach. Also, the kiosks with bulletin boards will be refurbished and kept current with announcements and news. The finishing design touches are nearing completion at Seaside Graphics and approval by the Gloucester Department of Public Works is expected.

Mark Cole, Assistant Director of Public Works and manager of Gloucester beaches, allocated the budget for the signs, and two members of FOGH’s beach team, Colette Knowlton and Kathe German, coordinated the design and production process. Ed Parks, former Director of Public Works, developed a plan for erecting the signs in appropriate locations with durable posts. And Phil Curcuru is undertaking the renovation work on the kiosks. New plantings are also being planned where the welcome signs will be placed.

Good Harbor Beach Rules SignThe welcome signs will have white lettering on an ocean blue background and surrounded by an oval rope. In the center will be Gloucester’s venerable image of the fisherman at the wheel. The appearance will be similar to the historic and directional markers located around the city. The rules signs will be simple with a white background, using international symbols to convey the six most important regulations. A more complete statement of rules and regulations will be posted on the kiosks and available as a flyer. The photograph above shows the locations of the signs.

Other improvements for the beach are planned or underway. Beach walkers may have noticed that fencing has been erected to protect dunes from the damage of trespassers. This work was launched by the DPW in response to an order from the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection Agency and is expected to be completed in the spring. Plans have also been made for posts and rope barriers along the boardwalks and paths to the beach, but final decisions have yet to be made.

This project is a result of the partnership between the Friends of Good Harbor and the Gloucester Department of Public Works. Thousands of people enjoy Good Harbor Beach but few realize the extent of maintenance required, especially in the summer. Every year, the DPW opens and maintains the parking program and ticket booth, administers the concession stand contract, cleans the beach of debris daily, monitors and repairs buildings, bathrooms, and signage, and approves and oversees special events. In addition, there are major repair and construction projects (for example after storms) and improvements to complete. Good Harbor is nature at its scenic best, but the DPW is its erstwhile caretaker and FOGH is its friend.

Salt Island Purchase Agreement Expires

On May 17, 2013, the executor of the Estate of James E. Kimball II approached the Friends of Good Harbor with an offer to sell the privately owned Salt Island for the price of $300,000 and the guarantee of six parking spaces for the family at Good Harbor Beach in perpetuity. FOGH agreed to raise funds to acquire theSalt Island off Good Harbor Beach island as a natural habitat and for public access and to try to find a way to provide the requested parking. Efforts to secure parking sticker privileges at Good Harbor Beach and on a lot near the beach proved unworkable. Efforts to modify the purchase price and eliminate the parking condition also failed. Despite further attempts to reach agreement, on October 10th the Purchase and Sale Agreement was allowed to expire and the owners were expecting to pursue a sale of the island on the open market. The Directors of the Friends of Good Harbor regret that seller and buyer could not reach a final accord and wish to thank the many public officials and private citizens who offered support and pledged generous funding for the project. It remains the hope of FOGH and all who joined in this effort that Salt Island will be preserved in the future for public enjoyment as it has in the past for generations of children and families.

Coastwatch Director Leads Marsh Walk

Barbara Warren, Executive Director of Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW), led a morning walk for 19 persons into sections of Good Harbor's salt marsh on Saturday, September 14.  The hearty band observed and learned the names of Marsh walk groupspecies of vegation, traced the creeks and tidal pools, and identified varieties of fish and macroinvertebrates feeding in the marsh.  People also learned the interesting variances between low and upper marsh areas.

A major purpose of the visit was to view sites throughout the marsh needing restoration work. These included erosion of creek walls, culverts that may be restricted, and construction materials encroaching on the marsh.

The Friends of Good Harbor and Salem Sound Coastwatch, a non-profit coastal watershed organization, have established a partnership to focus on the health of the salt marsh as a coastal habitat. There is evidence of decline and many threats to the environment. There is a clear and compelling need for leadership in protecting one of the most attractive and beneficial resources in the City of Gloucester.  FOGH will soon be publishing the results of SSCW's assessments and recommendations for restoration.

Marsh Study Offers Opportunities for Volunteers

The Friends of Good Harbor have extended the Summer Marsh Assessment project for a second year as a result of the compelling data which resulted from the 2012 study. The 2nd year project added “the rising seas” as a compelling new objective for study. As in previous years, volunteers are encouraged to participate. SSCW trains all volunteers and accompanies them into the field for data collection to ensure rigorous scientific standards are met. Study projects provide multiple opportunities to directly participate in monitoring salt marshes and to learn about the benefits of restoration. Volunteers come away with increased knowledge and appreciation of their local environment and with the knowledge that they can make a difference. Click on "Volunteer" on FOGH's website to learn more about how you can become involved in future Marsh protection projects and please join our marsh walks to enjoy a wonderful morning outing.

Friends Host Public Forum and Annual Meeting

The Friends of Good Harbor held a forum on the Good Harbor Beach ecosystem at the association’s annual meeting on Thursday, June 13, at 7 p.m., at the Elks on Bass Rocks on Gloucester’s back shore. The keynote speaker was Barbara Warren who spoke about the results of a summer long study of the salt marsh and tidal creek and offered recommendations to protect and preserve Good Harbor’s natural habitat and recreational environment.  Respondents to the address were Max Schenk, Gloucester's representative to the Great Marsh Committee, and Paul McGeary, Gloucester City Councilor.  There were 85-90 persons in the audience.

Barbara Schlichte receives award at annual meetingThe forum was coupled with FOGH’s annual meeting. Members of FOGH received an update on the association's accomplishments of the past year: beach improvements made by the Department of Public Works, a grant for the study of the effects of ocean rise in the marsh, the suspension of the Good Harbor Gateway Project, the request for FOGH to become involved in the purchase of Salt Island to ensure public access and preserve its natural habitat, the planning of conservation restrictions and the formation of a Good Harbor Conservancy, and the doubling of membership in the assocaition.

Dolores Mack, FOGH's secretary and member of the board, presented honorary certificates to the following individuals for their outstanding support, volunteer work, and dedication to the beach and marsh environment: Meredith Fine, Attorney, Paul McGeary, City Councilor, and Barbara Schlichte (photo above), founder of the Good Harbor Alliance. The agenda for the forum and annual meeting may be downloaded here.

The public was invited to become engaged in FOGH's activities with special opportunities to volunteer for salt marsh monitoring, participate in beach cleanup, and becoming a member of the association.

Storm Damage at Good Harbor Beach

The coastal storm of March 8 hit Good Harbor Beach hard. It broke the footbridge from its sidewalk connection making it impassable, eroded and pushed back the sand dunes, and flooded the concession stand and bathrooms. The bridge was also impaired by a February storm.

Storm damaged foot bridgeThe destruction from winter storms in 2013 required considerable time and resources on the part of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works, including cleanup, removing sand from the parking lot, making short-term repairs, and conducting damage assessment. According to Mark Cole, Assistant Director Public Works, the major damage was the footbridge and was originally estimated as much as $65,000. Creative solutions were proposed, one of which was publicized for community comments – whether to rebuild the bridge with wood or a movable aluminum span. After further deliberations within the DPW, an even more creative solution was proposed and implemented. The bridge was rebuilt largely with in-house staff with Philip Curcuru leading the project. Materials were purchased and delivered at a cost of approximately $6,000. By Memorial Day, Gloucester residents and visitors were once again crossing the footbridge and enjoying Good Harbor Beach, thanks to the talent and ingenuity of Gloucester’s Department of Public Works.

Salt Marsh Study Results Released

The results of the summer long study of the Good Harbor salt marsh and tidal creek will be presented at a forum on Thursday, June 13, hosted by the Friends of Good Harbor (see article above). Salem Sound Coastwatch Executive Director Barbara Warren, who led the most recent study of the marsh, will deliver the findings in a keynote address.

Seven years of monitoring Good Harbor salt marsh have rendered a consistent message: the marsh habitat is under stress and impaired. The study conducted last summer shows evidence of smaller numbers of invertebrates and greater amounts of invasive vegetation (e.g phragmites). Eight trouble sites are in need of restoration, and tidal flow degradation is apparent in Saratoga Creek. The project report is to be issued soon and will be posted on the FOGH web site with findings and recommendations for action.

The Marsh Assessment Study was conducted by Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW) in the summer of 2012. The purpose of the study was to assess the condition and quality of the marsh, including impairments to its health. The project team collected and analyzed seven data elements: salinity, nekton, macro-invertebrates, avifauna, vegetation, tidal influence, and land use. The project goal is to develop a plan for restoration and to maintain the marsh as a healthy natural habitat and as a resource for public awareness and enjoyment. The FOGH oversight leaders for this initiative are Tom Todd and Mary Sullivan.

Winter and Spring, 2013:

Friends Seek to Preserve Salt Island for Public Use

On May 17th, 2013, the Friends of Good Harbor were approached by representatives of the owners of Salt Island with a proposal for the property to be purchased by FOGH and preserved as a natural habitat with continued public access from Good Harbor Beach. The island had been owned since 1959 by James E. Kimball, of Brier Neck, who permitted public access over fifty years and passed away in 2010. It was a surprise to learn that the island was private land, and the opportunity to ensure that it would be open for families and children in future generations was a compelling one.

After consultation with City officials and numerous other parties, FOGH’s Board of Directors concluded that the association should offer to acquire the island and seek funding for the purchase. A sales price of $300,000 was agreed upon afterSalt Island photograph negotiations with the heirs. By July, FOGH had submitted to the City of Gloucester a proposal for $150,000 from the Community Preservation Act. Also, a proposal was submitted to a private foundation for $50,000. Subsequently, FOGH received a pledge from the Dusky Foundation for $50,000 and over $23,000 in pledges from the community. Then, a plan was drawn up for raising the balance of $75,000 with a year-long campaign for community contributions.

Salt Island is the rugged mound of granite and low vegetation that anchors the easterly portion of Good Harbor beach by a spit of sand at low tide. The island comprises five acres of vacant bedrock and has an oval configuration with a maximum width of approximately 325 feet and length of 800 feet. Its highest point is 50 feet above sea level.

The reasons for acquiring and preserving Salt Island are compelling. The island is an iconic component of the Good Harbor landscape. It is, and has been for generations, the recreational destination of children playing at the beach and discovering nature in the island rocks and surrounding sea. It is also a geological attraction, a tombolo, a deposition landform from the ice age attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land, an isthmus. If the island were to be privately owned, there would be no guarantee that it would be open space and accessible to the public. Although not currently developable, under private ownership the island could be restricted for private use; unappealing structures could be erected on it; and with new technologies it could be possible in the future to develop the island (which is zoned for residential use). Until it is protected for the public benefit, it will be threatened.

The prospects for this initiative are hopeful but not fully settled yet. A purchase and sale agreement has been signed but funding from the CPA is uncertain. Also, there are conditions in the P&S that have to be met. FOGH is proceeding to secure final funding on the assumption that the sale will close.

Gateway Property Acquisition Suspended

FOGH was successful in obtaining a purchase and sale agreement (P&S) for the salt marsh property at 70-74 Thatcher Road from the owners, Brierneck Realty (BNR), in August, 2012 (as previously reported in the article, P&S Signed, Challenges Remain). However, the P&S, secured by a deposit of $25,000, expired on January 31, 2013, and the owners declined to extend the agreement after originally committing by telephone and email to an extension of three months. Further efforts to renew the agreement to purchase the Good Harbor Gateway Property were unsuccessful after the owners’ attorney stated that another buyer was being considered, implying a resurrection of plans to build condominiums on the site.

From its inception, the project has been dependent on contributions from multiple sources in order to meet the funding goal of $750,000 (the purchase price of $720,000 and additional costs of $30,000). The targeted funding amounts had been awarded or pledged, except for one: a pledge of $125,000 by the owners; a grant award of $150,000 from the Community Preservation Act, a pledge from the Dusky Foundation for $50,000; and $25,000 raised by FOGH with $25,000 to follow. A proposal by the Gloucester Conservation Commission to the state’s EEA LAND Grant Program was not awarded. The extension of the P&S in January was needed for FOGH to close the funding gap by raising the balance of funds through major gifts from contributors, smaller donations from the community, and a loan by the Cape Ann Savings Bank.

As the project could not proceed without the owners’ agreement to extend the P&S, the Board of Directors of FOGH formally suspended the property acquisition initiative and all partners and funders were notified of this action. The Friends of Good Harbor continue, however, to focus on other long-standing plans which include new beach signage, dunes re-nourishment, salt marsh and ocean rise assessments, association expansion, and a marsh-walk along Thatcher Road.

The purpose of the Gateway initiative was to acquire and restore the parcel to its original state as salt marsh and ensure its preservation as open space. The parcel would also create a prominent Gateway to the Good Harbor Conservancy. While the initiative has been suspended, FOGH will monitor actions associated with the parcel and its possible development and seek opportunity to re-engage in protecting the salt marsh from future development. The April 30 Statement of the FOGH Board of Directors on the Good Harbor Gateway Project may be downloaded here.

Fall & Winter, 2012-13:

Senator Tarr Hosts Forum on Good Harbor Gateway

More than two dozen state, federal, and local leaders including environmental science professionals gathered in Gloucester on a rainy Friday morning in December at the invitation of Senator Bruce Tarr to attend a luncheon forum on Preserving Good Harbor. Co-hosted by City Councilor Paul McGeary, the purpose of the event was to hear presentations and discuss steps to preserve Good Harbor recreationally and environmentally.

Barbara Warren, Executive Director of Salem Sound Coastwatch reported the results of recent studies of the condition of the salt marsh and Denton Crews talked about the vision of the Friends of Good Harbor to acquire the long dormant but filled land on Thatcher Road across from the entrance to Good Harbor Beach (a property called Brierneck Crossing) and to create an environmental and visual entry point, called Good Harbor Gateway, including a more united salt marsh and beach called Good Harbor Conservancy.

Senator Speaks at ForumSenator Tarr led a discussion which produced a plethora of viewpoints and suggestions for preserving and enhancing Good Harbor, including potential technical and financial resources. A major theme was to expand the vision of Good Harbor as more than a beach and more than the acquisition of a single parcel such as the Gateway property. Good Harbor salt marsh and beach comprise over 150 acres and the watershed is an estimated 1,100 acres, the whole of which is vital to the environment – the water in the marsh, the vegetation, the fish hatchery and food sources, the macro-invertebrates, and the birds, as well as the nature lovers, the recreationists, and the passersby

A second theme was to expand the base of members of the Friends of Good Harbor and its donors. Advice and assistance were offered by participants to help expand the vision and potential programs for the conservancy, secure funding, carry out restoration and monitoring initiatives, stimulate eco-tourism, and create an environmental model for the community and northeastern Massachusetts.

The forum was held in the expansive conference room of the Northeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service on Great Republic Drive in Blackburn Park. Daniel Morris, Deputy Regional Director, welcomed the participants. Classic Cooks catered the luncheon. The Friends of Good Harbor, Inc., provided support for the event and responsibility for coordinating follow-up activities for implementation.

City Council Approves CPA Grant Award

The Gloucester City Council voted on the 27th of November to approve the 2012 grants from the Community Preservation Act, the largest of which was awarded to the Friends of Good Harbor in the amount of $150,000. FOGH’s proposal was submitted in March, 2012. Subsequently, the CPA Committee held numerous meetings, made a site visit, and reviewed status reports from FOGH. Over the summer, Mayor Kirk approved the committee finalists and the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee endorsed them. After a public hearing conducted by the City Council, the final decision was made. This award is a major milestone for the Friends of Good Harbor in the quest to acquire the filled marshland at 70 & 74 Thatcher Road across from Good Harbor Beach and hopefully to become the Good Harbor Gateway property.  A copy of the proposal may be viewed here.

Property P&S Signed, Challenges Remain

Known for more than a decade as “Brierneck Crossing,” the six-acre property located directly across from the entrance to Good Harbor Beach, is under formal agreement between the Friends of Good Harbor and the owners, Brierneck Realty (BNR) for the price of $720,000. The Purchase and Sale Agreement was secured with a deposit of $25,000 raised through contributions by residents of the local neighborhoods of Brier Neck, Witham Street, and Old Nugent Farm.

The funding components of the Gateway Property project have been coming together in stages. In addition to the community contribution of $25,000 (fifty-percent of FOGH’s goal), a significant commitment was made in mid-summer by J. Linzee Coolidge in the amount of a $50,000 pledge from the Dusky Foundation. Subsequently, Gloucester’s Community Preservation Committee made a recommendation of $150,000 from the Community Preservation Act (previous article). However, the proposal submitted by Gloucester’s Conservation Committee to the State Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for a LAND Grant is appearing doubtful and alternative funding may be needed to fill the gap.

State Senator Bruce Tarr has provided helpful support on behalf of the Good Harbor Gateway Project, as have Mayor Carolyn Kirk, State Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante, and City Councilor Paul McGeary – who continue to urge a sustained effort to fully fund the project.

For further information, interested persons may read about the project in greater detail in the Projects section.

Summer Study Project on Salt Marsh Conditions

The Friends of Good Harbor sponsored a summer-long Marsh Assessment Study conducted by Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW). The purpose of the study was to assess the condition and quality of the marsh, including impairments to its health. The project team collected and is currently analyzing seven data elements: salinity, nekton, macro-invertebrates, avifauna, vegetation, tidal influence, and land use. A report is to be issued in the fall of 2012 containing findings and recommendations for action. The project goal is to develop a plan for restoration, where needed, and to maintain the marsh as a healthy natural habitat and as a resource for public awareness and enjoyment.

Barbara Warren leads marsh tourSeven years ago, SSCW completed five years of monitoring at the Good Harbor beach marsh because this marsh was being used as a reference site for restoration efforts at Eastern Point salt marsh in Gloucester. During that time, the reference site experienced a three-year decline from not impaired (2002) to somewhat impaired (2003) to moderately impaired (2004), based on the macro-invertebrate community condition (ICI) and the assessed habitat quality (HAS). Despite the reference site’s good tidal flushing, well-established bank edge and productive vegetative salt marsh community, the comparison of ICI to HAS classified the Good Harbor salt marsh as having an ecological integrity somewhat impaired due to stressors other than poor habitat. The new study will therefore follow up the 2005 report showing comparative changes and current conditions.

The project leader is Barbara Warren, Executive Director of SSCW. The interns were Jacob Chapman, Connor Hilfinger, and Vanessa Zendejas. Also participating in the field work were Tom Todd, John Knowlton, and Ronn Garry (all members of FOGH). FOGH’s coordinator for the project is Mary Sullivan.

For further information, interested persons may read about the project in greater detail in the Projects section. Inquiries may also be made by email to barbara.warren@salemsound.org.

Pedestrian Counted on Thatcher Road

On a mid-summer Saturday, July 2, 2011, volunteer members of the Friends of Good Harbor conducted a count of pedestrians walking to Good Harbor Beach along ThWalkers on Thatcher Roadatcher Road between Barn Lane and Witham Street. Thatcher Road is a two-lane roadway with no shoulders, vegetation growing on both sides forcing walkers on to the asphalt, and the traffic is heavy in both directions. In one half-hour period before the beach traffic was in full swing, 750 moving vehicles were counted, not including bicycles and motorcycles. Then came the pedestrians. Between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30, there were 532 walkers, usually more than one person at a time, often with children in strollers, sometimes walking on both sides of the road, more than once (and unwisely) three-abreast. Comments heard by pedestrians heading home: “Here we go again” and “Isn’t there another way less dangerous?”

The Friends of Good Harbor are hoping to develop a proposal for a walkway along Thatcher Road to provide safety for pedestrians accessing Good Harbor Beach and offer an opportunity for the many persons who walk and run along Thatcher Road to experience both a safer, more enjoyable, and perhaps an educational experience along the marsh. Planning ideas include breakouts with marsh awareness information and gateway markers at both ends of the marsh walk. The walk would connect with the envisioned network of walking paths around Gloucester and Cape Ann.

For further information, interested persons may read about the project in greater detail in the Projects section.

Making Friends at Gloucester Block Party

The Friends embarked on an outreach effort by hosting a table on Main Street during Gloucester’s downtown block party on Saturday evening, September 15th. An attractive sign produced by Seaside Graphics was hoisted and maps of the salt marsh and beach were arrayed on easels. Friends at the Block PartyA tri-fold brochure and business cards were printed for distribution. And six volunteers spent several hours sharing the activities of FOGH with passersby, often engaging visitors in conversation about the importance of conservation and especially the treasured Good Harbor beach and marsh. Between 75 and 100 visitors received a brochure and 39 registered to receive FOGH’s email newsletter. The reasons for participating in the event were to reach beyond the immediate vicinity of Good Harbor with FOGH’s message and expand the base of membership in FOGH.  The friendly volunteers were Dolores and Tony Mack, Tom and Leslie Todd, Kathe German, and Denton Crews. Everyone agreed that the event was enjoyable and beneficial and should be repeated in the summer of 2013.

FOGH Designated as Tax Exempt

Friends of Good Harbor, Inc., is now certified as a charitable organization eligible to receive contributions which are deductible for tax purposes. Chartered already as a non-profit corporation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, FOGH was recently approved by IRS under section 501c3 of the tax code. The letter of approval is posted on the FOGH web site. Persons wishing to make a donation to FOGH may do so on the web site under Contribute.

Recent Presentations on FOGH

Denton Crews spoke about the Friends of Good Harbor at two annual meetings in June: Old Nugent Farm Association on June 2 and Brier Neck Association on June 22.  The presidents of the two associations extended the invitation to FOGH: Peter Briggs (ONF) and Deanie Johnson (BNA).  Crews also spoke about FOGH activities at the Gloucester Rotary Club meeting of September 11.  The presentations may be viewed in PDF format via the link below.

Association Meetings Presentation

Rotary Club Speech