Today my blog is about the forested place on Cape Ann called Dogtown. The first time I visited this place was when I arrived in Rockport, more than 10 years ago. After an amazing experience at Halibut Point State Park, I was taken into the woods of Dogtown. I was amazed. I became very curious about this place. Through my studies at Salem State University, I did research on the conservation and protection of Dogtown. This study brought me to the realization that I can personally help protect this place by offering small private hiking tours. This could educate people about the importance of this place and hopefully preserve it.
History of Dogtown
Most of the people from Cape Ann and the Northshore area have heard of Dogtown Common. There are a few books and articles that explain the distinctive nature and unique history of the area. Some visitors traveling to Rockport and Gloucester look for nature hikes, and many are attracted particularly to Dogtown.
Dogtown occupies a space of 3600 acres at the center of Cape Ann. It contains two natural reservoirs, wetlands, seasonal vernal pools, and many rare plants and animal species. In addition to its beautiful nature, Dogtown is important for its historical value. It was one of the first settlements on the Northshore, starting in the 1650s. In 1845, the last settlers left and moved to the industrial areas of Gloucester, Rockport and Lanesville.
Today, we can find cellar holes as remnants of the houses on the original lots. One of the most popular sites is the Babson Boulder Trail. This is a path of giant boulders, accumulated through a terminal moraine 10.000 years ago. The area is photogenic in any season. During the time of the Great Depression, a local philanthropist named Roger Babson employed quarry workers to decorate these boulders with logos and names. In the end, Babson’s vision was to create a park for the people of Cape Ann with monuments that promoted moral values.
Dogtown is currently designated as an Open Space on Cape Ann. This means that it belongs to the people of Gloucester and Rockport. However, Open Space is not a legal agency and the status doesn’t secure any protection. This land has always lived under the threat of developers. In the beginning of 1940, committees made a proposal for a municipal airport. In 1974, people made a plan for a historical-village styled attraction with a museum and actors dressed in historical attire.
We must always be aware of these threats. Developers eventually take control of unused lands. There are always planners with the means to use the land for their purposes. A proposal from the Dogtown Steering Committee in the 1980s brought some restrictions and rules to the city. Unfortuately, Gloucester never implemented the restrictions. Gloucester included Dogtown in its “Open Space and Recreation Plan” in 2003. This is a resource for conservation and quiet recreation. Still, Dogtown remains vulnerable and unprotected.
Solutions for Dogtown
To propose some solutions for the space, maybe a historical landmark would help to keep this place safe. Maybe a sustainable and quiet eco-tourism is the answer. Eco-tourism helps to bring awareness about the importance of the land.
“Ecotourism is a sustainable way of tourism. Ecotourism directly profits the local economy while protecting nature, historical sites and culture activities. The mission of ecotourism is to educate and support the local community. Ecotourism raises the respect for cultural, natural and historical values; it eliminates prejudice and creates cultural and environmental understanding.” (Scheyvens Regina, Ecotourism and the empowerment of local communities)
Lastly, it is important to maintain this space and clear certain spots in the area. On my hike through Dogtown, I take people to visit the main attractions such as cellar holes and Babson’s Boulders. I also take people to invisible energy vortex spots not shown on the maps. I talk about the history and teach the importance of conservation. Get in touch with me if you want to be a part of Dogtown!