Did you read about Cape Cod’s Big Water Drinking Problem in the Boston Globe magazine this past weekend, the cover story? Oy, complicated.
There’s still time to register for the annual Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim which will be held at Niles Beach Saturday morning. Swim or raise a toast–there is so much to celebrate.
Swim to celebrate Gloucester’s clean water
Swim to celebrate the moments people help*
Swim to celebrate a history of ongoing conservation
Swim to celebrate the guys on the DPW crews
Before it was Celebrate the Clean Harbor it was… clean it.
Thirteen year old Elinor Doty swam a mile and a half in 29 minutes, ahead of 16 other swimmers in 1979. The race was in tribute to John McPhee, head of Gloucester Sea Scouts. “We tried to get swimmers who knew John McPhee,” said race organizer Jim Doty, Elinor’s father. “I’d like to make it an annual event if I can swing it…”
“Rounding out the field of 17, was 68 year old Sara Robbins, who was surprised by an unexpected visitor during the middle of the race. “The grey harbor seal popped up beside me to show me a two-pound flounder that he had caught,” said Robbins, who has been training a half mile each day for the past two weeks. “I’m not too fast but I get there.” She said she used the side stroke during the whole course.”
Doty came in first place again in 1980 when the swim morphed into the ideal kick off event for Cape Ann’s Year of the Coast. Because of water quality, several parents wouldn’t let their children participate. “And only two are from the Cape Ann YMCA, James Doty notes, which usually supplies more contestants.”
Water pollution was rarely mentioned if at all before the Cape Ann Year of the Coast, an undeniable avalanche tipping point. One 1980 article has a picture of Sarah Fraser Robbins, Sarah Evans and Chandler Evans. The 8 year old was ceremoniously passed from boat to boat and then dropped in so three generations could swim across the finish line. In 1981 organizers reminded people that they didn’t need to complete the swim, they could jump in and swim across the finish line in support. I wonder if that tradition was maintained?
1980 swimmers besides the Evans clan and Doty–Gloucester residents, unless otherwise stated: David Hayden (2nd place), Karen Hartley of Dorchester (3rd place), Andy O’Brien of Rockport, Barry Hallett Jr, Darrell Hallett (swam part way alongside his brother), Kay Rubin, Polly Doty of Dedham, Jack Crowley of South Weymouth, Carl Blumenthanl, Chris Lovgren of Gloucester, Stan Luniewicz, Bill Jebb representing Sea Tec, Steve Haskell Sea Tec, Sharon Kishida Sea Tec, Earl Kishida Sea Tec, Jan Childs, Chris Sanders of Rockport, Chris Vonalt of Rockport, and Sam Rugh.
Councilor Carolyn O’Connor led a brief awards ceremony. I love the quip recorded in Laura Meades 1980 sports report Hardy Swimmers Keep Heads High: “As they went on, the swimmers shouted encouragement to one another and checked their progress. “What’s ahead of us?” asked Steve Haskell of SeaTec Inc, a diving firm. “A couple of 8-year olds,” replied SeaTec’s owner, Bill Jebb, swimming beside Haskell.”
I hope DPW feels proud that their work protected us, Gloucester’s famous harbor, our legacy.
Before the waste water treatment facility was built in 1984, untreated waste (sanitary, storm water, industrial, you name it) was discharged directly into the inner and outer harbor. Gloucester was not alone. Rockport, Essex, Beverly- there were many North Shore stories. I wish I knew the name of every person that did the necessary retrofitting and water treatment labor. They dug up roads, laid pipe, cleaned up messes, dealt with outfalls, extended sewer lines, requested a decontamination shower and changing area (1978) so they wouldn’t have to wash up at home, engineered, mapped, and monitored what was necessary to bring us from a crisis by 1980–and lawsuit– to where we are now in 2016. DPW continues to address storm water pollution, also mandated, and will make next year’s compliance deadline. (Gloucester is not unduly impaired by industrial waste like some other communities that will feel the pinch.) Thanks to Larry Durkin, Environmental Engineer, DPW, and Senator Tarr’s office for pouncing on MBTA’s pesticide spraying.
To paraphrase the famous George M Cohan quote: My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my brother thanks you, andI will add that my children thank you, future generations thank you, wildlife thanks you, businesses thank you, truly all of Gloucester thanks you!
**I grabbed material for this post from GDT headlines thanks to Sawyer Free Library. Newspapers on microfilm are available in the Reference Department. I am not alone in dreaming of the day when Gloucester archives, Gloucester Daily Times, and other essential research are digitized, but I tend to repeat this ongoing plea.
*It’s not one person, event or decade that stands out. There’s an incredible timeline of care. Who would you add? part 2