Government Involvement

People and Government Interaction with Dogtown

Dogtown, cherished by many, is five square miles of deep thick woods and wilderness. Settled in the early 1700s and abandoned for the shore by the 1830s, Dogtown has, for the most part, always been a quiet and serene place that has captured the admiration of hikers, wildlife refuge seekers, and artists such as Marsden Hartley.

However, it has not been such a 'refuge' for the ever-growing civilization and business tycoons. Its extensive amount of unused land nestled on Cape Ann is ideal for urbanization and industrialization; for factories or just homes, hotels, and tourist attractions. Bits of Dogtown used to be owned by private investors who could at any time industrialize their area of land. And even if Dogtown itself has remained rural, the area around it has not. In the 1950s and early 1960s, many roads were worked on around the edges of the Dogtown borders. Streets were repaved, oiled, and widened allowing chemicals to seep into the ground nearest to Dogtown and allowing civilization to encroach on Dogtown further still. In 1944, a Dogtown Airport consisting of private planes was proposed. Luckily, this proposal was too far out of the reach of Gloucester's budget. In 1958, Dogtown was also considered as a possible site for a nuclear fuel processing plant. Adding further insult, a rifle range was created, limiting Dogtown as a wildlife 'refuge'. And unfortunately, beginning in the 1960s, Dogtown has been ravaged by graffiti, trash, fire, and more, with little attempt made by the police force to prevent such activity much to the dismay of nature-lovers who appreciate and admire the land, and will fight with all of their willpower for its protection.

Many people, in support of Dogtown, have fought for its isolation and protection from modern urbanization and have succeeded in tremendous ways. In the early 1980's, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted the Gloucester Conservation Commission $266,000 toward the purchase of the land from private owners. In the hands of the City, Dogtown protectors and preservers can now be put at ease that Dogtown will never be subject to any sort of development ruining the natural life there. Several of the private owners were tentative about negotiating a deal but eventually all of the land was been settled in agreement. City Planner Margaret O'Donnell negotiated the agreements with the private owners, such as Mary Clancy, and more stubborn owners Doris Tasker, Norman Von Rosenvinge, and Samuel Hershey. The grant monies awarded did fall short of what Dogtown really was worth about $322,000, which is still on the lower side. The Essex County Greenbelt Association raised the rest of the money for the purchase. All of Cape Ann was in support of and eager for this buy. With it, Dogtown will be protected from development at the entrance, and the city will be able to manage the entirety of Dogtown, not just sections.

The purchase of Dogtown allowed more appreciation to be felt and spread for Dogtown. Teachers, such as Kathryn Schubeck, Rockport High School biology teacher, had high hopes to spread the awareness and appreciation of clean nature like Dogtown. In 1985, Schubeck applied and received a grant to videotape the values of the hikers who visit Dogtown and Dogtown itself. Schubeck's aim was to enrich the minds of her students, and other kids, and to broaden their minds so that they can stop and break away from the modern world to sit and admire pure nature. Her final product was a half-hour program for cable television to air, and for classrooms to show. So many people like Schubeck have tried to impress the importance of preserving nature onto the kids, because, as Schubeck says, "They're the ones who will make the impact. They're the citizens of tomorrow..."

The government - whether it is State of Massachusetts or City of Gloucester - has always helped environmental teams in the ways they could, like having awarded grants to committees to allow the operation of projects concerning the preservation of the woods. The State Harbor Dredging Act instituted drains in the land to clear out sediment and unwanted debris that was causing flooding and the dirtying of our drinking water. In 1985, automobile traffic was closed from entering Dogtown, which has been a (albeit mild) solution to the problems such as trash, graffiti, and accidental fires.

As we can see, much action was taken in the early 1980s, specifically 1985. A new mayor had been elected in the early '80's; Dick Silva. One of Silva's main concerns was of Dogtown. He created a steering committee with Bob French heading it, when he first took office. This committee included representatives from the Conservation Committee, the Greenbelt Association, the Cape Ann Sportsmen's Club, the Garden Council, City Council, the police department, and concerned individuals wanting to protect Dogtown.

Through the unrelenting work of the environmentally concerned and the help of government funds, support, and laws, Dogtown has regained isolation from the rest of Cape Ann and the modern world. It is somehow broken away from the civilization surrounding it, and it will always be there as an escape to the natural world.