HARWICH — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was impressed with the major improvements to Saquatucket Harbor as she strolled along the new dock system during a project completion ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
“It exceeded my expectations, though I knew it would be great,” Polito told The Chronicle at the conclusion of a tour of the new facilities.
Polito is the chair of the state Seaport Economic Council, which contributed $2 million in grants to the town to support both the water and landside improvements at the harbor. Council members accompanied her on the tour of the new facilities after conducting a meeting at town hall in which four grants totaling $1,497,200 were announced, including one for Orleans (see related story).
“With the completion of these two major projects, we have improved the safety of navigation within the harbor...we have reconfigured and replaced the dock system and services, bringing the marina into compliance with the federal and state accessibility requirements, and we modernized and expanded our landside facilities that are resilient toward sea-level rise [and] that provide improved pedestrian safety and handicap accessibility,” Harbormaster John Rendon said during the ceremony.
The Baker-Polito administration changed the former Seaport Advisory Council into the Seaport Economic Council, emphasizing growing the blue economy, Polito said. She emphasized the importance of using capital funds for economic gain. The statewide economic impact of maritime-related industries is more than $17 billion, incorporating more than 5,500 businesses and 136,000 jobs.
With the grants announced Tuesday, the council has made more than $41 million in awards since 2015 through 83 grants to coastal communities. The Saquatucket grants provided better and more expanded services, she said, referring to the new restaurant overlooking the harbor and the artisan shacks along the walkway. There are better services for the commercial fishing industry, all things Polito said are examples of what the Seaport Economic Council can do.
While visiting the artisan shacks Polito stopped to talk to a group of kids waiting to board one of the party fishing boats in the harbor. There was an engaging exchange that included a lot of high-fiving and a little pirate banter.
State Representative Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, called the Saquatucket Harbor project “transformative.” She spoke of walking the site with Polito three years ago and trying to envision what the improved facilities would look like.
“The Seaport Economic Council is appropriately named,” Peake said. “They’ve revitalized activities.”
Peake thanked the council for working on behalf of harbors and their infrastructure because the commercial and recreational activities there are critical to the economic vitality of the towns in her district. In Harwich these include the ferry boat activities, charter boats, snack shack and artisan shacks, which she said will serve as small economic incubators that will grow the businesses into stores.
“She’s here because she cares about the communities,” Peake said of the lieutenant governor. “She takes back to Boston what she gathers in these communities and she get real results. She’s a friend to each community in my district.”
Town Administrator Christopher Clark praised the partnership of state and local government, noting that the waterside improvements cost $7 million and the landside improvements $4 million. The town had to go to town meeting twice and seek debt exclusions twice, winning favorable votes each time.
“People saw the partnership with the state, the $2 million,” Clark said of the willingness of Harwich residents to move forward with the project.
Rendon said Saquatucket Municipal Marina is now a more attractive and vibrant destination to a broader spectrum of the community. That would not have been possible with the support of the Seaport Economic Council and Polito, he said.