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Local News

July 22, 2013

Cyclocross leader eyes move to Salem

SALEM — Through asphalt, dirt, tight turns and the elements, the Gran Prix of Gloucester has brought cyclists from around the globe to compete in a race around Stage Fort Park.

But the annual race may soon overlook a new waterfront — Salem Willows.

Typically held toward the end of September, the Gran Prix has been in Gloucester since 1999 and has grown from a one-day race of hundreds to a two-day gathering of about 1,000 cyclists — not including spectators, and the racers’ friends and family members.

Now, because of concerns about repairs to Stage Fort Park and other factors, Paul Boudreau, president of the Essex County Velo, the nonprofit group that organizes the race, is looking toward Salem as an alternative site.

“Discussions are ongoing, and we remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement (to keep the race in Gloucester),” Boudreau wrote in an email. “However, given the uncertainty that Gloucester would continue to be a feasible host city, we faced no other choice but to explore options for other potential host cities in the area.”

Boudreau recently met with the Salem Parks and Recreation Commission and has set up more dates to meet with Salem officials.

“There is an interest in the plan, definitely,” Salem Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Karen Partanen said.

She added that officials are concerned with the short time frame, and there are details about parking, restrooms and trash cleanup that have not yet been discussed.

Since the fall of 2012, Gloucester residents and officials have raised concerns about how the repairs to the park are handled, as cyclists leave a mud trail in their wake.

In cyclocross, riders compete on a course of grass, dirt and asphalt, and are required to dismount and run or jump over obstacles at points throughout the race.

Boudreau and other Essex County Velo members met with residents and the Gloucester City Council Planning and Development subcommittee, chaired by Councilor Greg Verga, in January.

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