Masthead Friends of Good Harbor

Good Harbor Conservancy

The following is a description of how the Good Harbor salt marsh sanctuary with multiple owners can be united as a contiguous sanctuary and linked as the “Good Harbor Conservancy.” The conservancy would initially embrace an area of over 100 acres.

Concept of the Conservancy

The primary purpose of designating the area as a conservancy is to create a unified identity and framework for preserving the marsh, beach, salt ponds, and wetlands in the area known as Good Harbor. With nearly thirty owners of the core area of the marsh and many other owners in the tributary areas, there is no unified strategy beyond an assortment of laws and regulations to promote stewardship and management. The creation of a conservancy would produce commitment to the ideals and standards for the natural sanctuary as defined by laws, regulations, and common practices applicable to public lands and open spaces.

The constituents of the Good Harbor Conservancy will be the owners of the targeted properties comprising beach, salt marsh, salt ponds, wetlands, and buffer lands in the core area. The Friends of Good Harbor (FOGH) is currently working with the major owners of the properties to further develop the Good Harbor Conservancy. There are three primary owners (deed holders of major contiguous properties): the City of Gloucester (approximately 84 acres), the Old Nugent Farm Condominium Association (approximately 68 acres), and Brierneck Realty (approximately 6 acres), as well as more than 25 owners of smaller adjacent parcels in the core area.

The owners of the properties would be responsible for the management of their lands (a minimal task since the marsh would be left alone in its natural state under ideal circumstances). The Friends of Good Harbor would serve as the organizing entity for advancing and promoting adherence to the ideals of the conservancy. The name, Good Harbor Conservancy, and a statement of ideals and standards would denote a unified approach to preserving and enhancing the natural habitat of the salt marsh, beach, and wetlands of Good Harbor.

To the extent possible, all owners will be asked to participate under the umbrella of the Good Harbor Conservancy by agreeing to and abiding by currently available instruments of conservation. With respect to the primary owners, those instruments would be as follows: City of Gloucester (Article 97, where applicable, or a conservation restriction), Old Nugent Farm Association (a conservation restriction), and Brierneck Realty or its successor (a conservation restriction). For the numerous other owners of salt marsh and wetland buffer properties, each property would be considered on a case-by-case basis as a candidate for a conservation restriction, an outright gift of property, or a memorandum of understanding. The Good Harbor Conservancy boundaries are shown in the Wetlands Map at the end of this article.

Conservation Restrictions in the Conservancy

 Because the land owned by Brierneck Realty (70 & 74 Thatcher Road) is under agreement for sale via FOGH to the City of Gloucester and dependent on funds from the local Community Preservation Act and the State LAND Grant program, that property will be under mandate for a conservation restriction (CR). Already, FOGH, in concert with the Gloucester Conservation Commission (the applicant for LAND Grant funds), is working with the Essex County Greenbelt Association to secure ECGA’s agreement to hold a CR on the newly acquired property on behalf of the City of Gloucester. FOGH is also working with the Old Nugent Farm Association to secure agreement to a CR on its salt marsh lands with ECGA holding the CR.

ECGA will develop the CR for both the City of Gloucester and Old Nugent Farm Association, including the determination of property boundaries (based upon surveys arranged by the owners), the drafting, and the approval process. ECGA, as holder of the CRs, will then be responsible for stewardship responsibilities (filing baseline documentation and monitoring violations), for which a one-time fee of $15,000 will proportionately endow their stewardship service.

This initiative, coupled with the protection of the City’s wetland and beach property under Article 97 of the Laws of the Commonwealth, is expected to place a significant amount of the salt marsh and some upland under protection as natural resources in perpetuity.

Management of the Conservancy

The Good Harbor Conservancy will not require a significant amount of management. As stated above, the owners of properties will be responsible for the management of their properties. And ECGA will be responsible for the conservation restrictions and exercise stewardship by enforcing compliance. FOGH will contribute leadership and supplementary management by promoting communication and collaboration among owners, as needed, and the maintenance of the identity and statement of standards for the conservancy. FOGH will also encourage the general public to appreciate and support the ideals of the conservancy.

Recreational Opportunities in the Conservancy

The opportunity to create a recreational and educational centerpiece for the salt marsh surrounding Gloucester’s most famous beach is central to the vision for the Good Harbor Conservancy. The six-acre Good Harbor Gateway Property to be acquired will be the keystone to a contiguous conservancy (as described above) which will be protected and made more accessible to the public. The vision is to create two types of recreational opportunities: (1) trail-based activities and (2) environmental education.

Trail-based Activities

The spine of the proposed trail will be along Thatcher Road, an east-west roadway that connects Gloucester and Rockport following the jagged Atlantic shore line. The Friends of Good Harbor have developed formal plans for a pedestrian walkway along Thatcher Road from Barn Lane to Witham Street which will transect the marsh and provide a safe connection for pedestrians from the sidewalks of East Gloucester to Good Harbor Beach and beyond. The walkway will be partly sidewalk and partly boardwalk. There will be stopping points with signage and benches at either end, the easterly end being the Good Harbor Gateway property. It will truly be the gateway to the marsh and beach area for pedestrians and passersby.

The Thatcher Road Trail is already included in Gloucester’s Complete Streets Program and its Get Fit Gloucester Partnership launched in April, 2012. The section of Thatcher Road around Good Harbor beach is listed as a gap in the planned trail system that should linked with a walkway. It is also listed as a potential section of the “green path network” with greater grooming and more connections to natural habitats.

The Good Harbor Gateway Project will enable the public to have access to and interaction with the Good Harbor Conservancy. It will provide a starting point, a resting point, and a destination point for walkers, hikers, runners, and bicyclists. Signage and furnishings along the walkway will enhance and distinguish this recreational resource for generations to come.

Historical and Environmental Education

 Since 1996, the five-hundred square mile portion of eastern Massachusetts north of Boston has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area. Good Harbor Conservancy can lay claim to this heritage historically and environmentally. The acquisition and creation of the Good Harbor Gateway and Conservancy will provide the extraordinary opportunity to capture and share both history and environment.

The history of the Good Harbor area includes a period when the entire marsh and beach area was a little harbor for boats, then a salt marsh hay farm, and most significantly the salt marsh and wetlands of today. It also contains granite outcroppings and formations from the terminal moraine of the ice age. The environment of Good Harbor is an extraordinary natural resource in several respects: a beautiful coastal landscape, a wildlife habitat, the nursery grounds for fish and shellfish, nutrition for offshore food webs, water purification and improvement for the watershed, shoreline protection from flood and erosion, a recreational estuary, and an outdoor classroom for education.

The Friends of Good Harbor propose to create an outdoor classroom for environmental education as integral to the Good Harbor Conservancy. At the Gateway property, there will be gateway signs informing the public of the conservancy and its value as a natural resource. There will be educational breakouts along the walkway and boardwalk. On the beach and adjacent to the marsh, there will be information kiosks and brochures on the salt marsh and the history of Little Good Harbor. In addition, the Friends will sponsor environmental forums and marsh walks.

Wetlands Map Showing Good Harbor Conservancy

Good Harbor Conservancy Map