Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Park Service Attendance, Fishing News, Thacher's Island, Local Issues, and the Winter Olympics

TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2010 From Florida

National Park Service National Attendance Figures Announced

Last week, The National Park Service released attendance numbers for the entire Park Service for 2009, and they were quite impressive. In 2009, 10 million more people visited National Parks then in 2008. Those visitation numbers represented nearly a 4% increase over the visitation numbers for 2008. The total visitation numbers just fell a bit short of the all time gain in visitation set in 1987 at 287.2 total visitors. I have not seen the official numbers for Essex County, but information reported recently by the Park Service in Salem and Saugus indicated substantial increases. There were several reasons provided for the increase but the primary reason seems to be the wonderful PBS series produced by Ken Burns, The National Park’s, America’s Best Idea. We certainly expect to see even higher visitation numbers in Salem in 2010 as the Friendship is back in port and in 2010 she will be undergoing sea trails and then later in the year will be sailing in the waters of Salem Sound, as the first trip taking paying customers will be made to and from Gloucester on Labor day weekend.

Impact on Gloucester and Other Fishing Locations in Essex County

This past week a report circulated that a strong Red Tide incursion is likely to effect clam-flats from Maine to Cape Cod. If this prediction becomes a reality this will have a most negative impact on the availability and the cost of clams in 2010, and will have a negative impact on the many wonderful seafood restaurants up and down the Coast of Essex County. The report indicated that this year’s red tide could be worse than the ones in 2005 and in 2008 that seriously impacted the region.

In another issue that hopefully might have a positive effect on Gloucester and the fishing industry in this region, a rally was held in Washington, DC last week protesting the fishing limits that have been imposed on the industry. At the rally fishermen from Maine to Florida gathered in the Nation’s Capital to try to bring attention to decisions that are seriously impacting the ability of many in our region to make a living. Mayor Kirk of Gloucester was one of the speakers at the rally, and in her remarks urged that cod limits imposed on Gloucester fishermen were killing the industry and seriously impacting her community. There were speakers from east coast locations and Baltimore interests were bringing scallop concerns from that region to the rally. One of the elected officials from New York State indicated that it might be time for the regulators to begin to pay more attention to the fishermen and their economic needs rather than the protection of the fish. Lets all hope that this rally will have a positive impact, as certainly the fishing industry in Gloucester needs all the help it can receive.

Award for Thatcher Island Association

Essex Heritage learned last week that the Thatcher Island association has received a wonderful national award. The Island Association has received the Presidential Preserve America Steward award for their work on the island for these many years. The award citation came from the First Lady of the United States, Michele Obama. The citation pointed out the countless volunteer hours that have spent providing over 4000 hours of labor maintaining and restoring the historic assets located on the Island. Essex Heritage has long recognized the importance of the work being done on Thatcher’s island as several Essex Heritage Partnership Grants have been provided to assist in the restoration efforts on the lighthouses and other buildings on the island.

Local Option Taxes Being Considered in Local Communities

In 2009 the State Legislature voted two local option taxes that communities could impose that would increase the taxes paid on hotel/motel rentals and on meals. The tax would allow a local option that would add an additional 2% on hotel/motel rentals and ¾ of 1% on meals. Several local communities have considered these options and in some cases communities have adopted the taxes. The Town of Danvers enacted the hotel/motel tax but rejected the local option on meals. Currently the Cities of Salem and Beverly are considering these options and the debate in the two communities have been intense. The leadership of two local Cities is supporting the tax increases as the opportunity to collect additional revenue to help balance beleaguered municipal budgets are enticing, but the city councils in both Cities are concerned about he effect of the taxes on local residents. At the end of last week, Beverly passed both taxes, and the Salem Council returned the option to committee for additional study. I suspect that there are more discussions still to be held on this matter in Salem.

Preliminary Design on MBTA Garage Presented in Salem

The MBTA recently held a preliminary hearing in Salem to unveil the design for the new commuter rail station that they have committed to build. As expected the city residents who attended the hearing did not universally accept the design. There was general acceptance of the new platform design that would allow easier boarding, but the exterior design and the small waiting area were not well received. Stay tuned for more on this issue as the hearings continue.

Winter Olympics 2010 Completed

I am preparing this portion of today’s BLOG posting just a couple of hours after the USA/Canada Gold Medal hockey match, and the contest was certainly all it was expected to be and more. In fact it seems to me that the entire Olympic games presentation was very well done by the organizers in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and exceeded expectations. The host country did exceptionally well as they won the most gold medals of any participating country, including the two most important medals to them, men’s and woman’s ice hockey. Our country also preformed well leading all countries in total medals won, and did very well in the traditional winter sports like bobsledding and alpine skiing.

Each year I meet up here in Florida with a gentlemen from Nova Scotia, Canada who has become a good friend as we now communicate by e-mail about politics and sports, particularly Ice Hockey, in our two countries all through the year in between our annual visit to Florida. I can only say tonight that Bob Saunders is in a state of euphoria that will likely last well into spring over Team Canada’s stirring overtime win over the USA earlier today. It was a wonderfully played game and it seemed most appropriate that it was decided in overtime. Congratulations Bob, and all other Canadian Hockey fans on the well deserved win, but I suspect that the biggest winner of all was the sport of ice hockey that was on display for the last two weeks and most certainly presented the sport in the best possible light these last 14 days.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at www.essexheritage.org. Thanks. Tom Leonard


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