BARS Campaign Update: Gloucester & Rockport
BY: KRISTIN KELLEHER & EMILY HARTMANN, SEPTEMBER 13th 2018
As North and South Carolina prepare for Hurricane Florence on the East Coast, spurring evacuations, it reminds us of the devastating effects extreme weather and flooding can have on local businesses, and our own impacts from the January and March storms in Massachusetts. Now is the time to prepare for the coming storm season and engage in resilience planning. Our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas Team spent the last two weeks engaging with businesses in Rockport and Gloucester, where flooding events significantly damaged property last winter.
A number of Cape Ann businesses have a connection with the water. Whether it be the heavenly views while shopping for trinkets or the revenue stream from fixing boats on the water, businesses in Rockport and Gloucester are inherently tied to the coast- and the need to remain resilient is essential in keeping the local economy on track.
The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce recognizes this, and has taken action. They have been a leader in sustainability and resilience measures. They are key partners in our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas outreach, connecting us with local business leaders. The Chamber engages in a number of avenues to inform their members of the risks associated with flooding, hosting a climate adaptation forum this spring with local resilience experts, and partnering with National Grid in their energy efficiency incentive program.
Rockport and Gloucester are picturesque towns, which lends to their booming tourism industry. On a sunny afternoon walking down the pedestrian-only streets on Bearskin Neck in Rockport and exploring Rocky Neck in Gloucester, it is hard to imagine what these regions endured just a few short months ago. About 95% of the business owners we connected with in these communities had experienced negative impacts to their business due to flooding.
Local business owners filled us in on how sea-level rise and storm surges have transformed Rocky Neck, an idyllic peninsula in Gloucester that houses one of the oldest art colonies in the United States. Flooding and storm surges prevented access to their business and placed their artwork and assets at risk of damage from sea-water.
“I took [a] video of the water coming up the sea wall and over the stairs. The water was up to two feet, it rushed down the street and all of our cars were totaled. This was January 3rd…The water could easily enter our place, and it has over the years. Almost everybody over here has had extensive damages.” – Goetmann Art Gallery.
Viking, the General Manager at Gloucester Marine Railways, also relayed how her business, located at the edge of the peninsula was affected.
“ There was a lot of debris everywhere, it was a big clean-up. Then it was an ice shelf. It was dangerous to get around out here, because once the water left, now we’re working in a skating rink.
“The national park service boat on the railways [roller ramp] got taken apart [from the storm] and water got into the new work, we lost a furnace and a lot of materials and supplies, [the water] got up into our hauling room where we had to pump it out which made it kind of oily, so we had oily water, hazardous waste pump off.”
Over the years, local fishing and lobster shacks have become a quaint and charming pedestrian stretch filled with tradesmen and local boutiques on Bearskin Neck. With such a heavy reliance on tourism, only possible for a few months of the year in New England, the pressure to ensure that buildings are ready and structurally sound for tourist season is high. Both Rockport and Gloucester businesses have stated their vulnerability to a lack of potential customers, with 82% and 73% of businesses listing it as a major concern, respectively.
Sarah, the Manager at One Ocean One Love, a hand printed clothing brand that donates 5% of all their profits towards ocean conservation shared how her shop was negatively impacted over the winter.
“We had […] historic flooding and high tide, so obviously being right on the water on stilts or pilings, that affected us. The water came right up to pretty much the max before it would come through the floorboards. And we could hear a lot of creaking and things like that. That was a little bit intimidating. We did lose a couple of pilings. Our landlord was great though and he replaced those within the week, we are now up and running and have better support then we did before. But, it’s definitely really concerning for us, we were lucky enough not to flood, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen next time.”
Business owners in town are pragmatic about change. They understand it is necessary, and plan to adapt gradually.
“Businesses can’t afford to change their entire infrastructure all at once. Then you don’t have that business, employees lose their jobs, and it just hurts economically. It’s horrible that we have to think about the environment in terms of the economy, but unfortunately that’s the world that we live in. It’s all intertwined, you have to find a way to make it work. You have to find a way to not be extreme because if you go extreme people shut down and you’ve lost.” – Rockport Fudgery.
Local businesses, like Gloucester Marine Railways and the Rockport Fudgery, look to the future and anticipate even higher tides during in the coming years- building new infrastructure and moving their assets to prepare.
“We built a brand new pier out here, that’s three feet above the other piers. And that pier you could walk out and see what was happening that day [during the extreme storm this winter]. People thought it was kind of overkill to build the pier that high, but it didn’t feel like it that day.”
“We took the furnace apart and we raised it up another 18 inches. Otherwise that second storm would’ve taken the furnace for a second time. I could tell the board of directors I lost the furnace, but I can’t tell them I lost it twice.” – Viking, Gloucester Marine Railways.
“Basically, when it comes to be winter time, we move any product that we have down here upstairs. So, if the water got in, it would damage the floors but we wouldn’t really lose any product. Most of our freezers and things like that are upstairs. The steam boiler is one the second floor, and we pipe it down here. So, all that kind of stuff is all upstairs” – Peter, Owner of the Rockport Fudgery.
With an insanely busy tourist season, a majority of businesses in this vulnerable coastal region may not have time to prioritize preparing for the winter. While most business owners understand their risks and recognize the need for mitigation, many of them were unsure of where to start before the next round of winter storms and flooding hits the area. 100% of the businesses we spoke with said that CABA’s Resilience Guide was a helpful resource for them and that they will seek to create an emergency plan by referencing our Resilience Worksheet.
“ There’s so much going on as a business owner. So to have someone come to you and you don’t have to go out of your way to attend a meeting or even just an email, I know everyone in the summer is just so busy. To have you guys come to us is just so helpful, because I don’t have to leave work, or make an appointment. This is really helpful, especially for me.” -Sarah, One Ocean One Love.
The compilation of data, resources, flood maps, and worksheet that we’ve created for business owners in Rockport and Gloucester will undoubtedly serve as a useful tool in developing an emergency plan amid the chaos of summer.
The BARS campaign will continue through September, targeting Scituate, Duxbury and Newburyport next. The Resiliency Team will continue to distribute our guides and collect data from business owners to contribute to our final report.
Interested in reading our Resilience Guides? Click the links below