Pilgrim Memorial State park improvements an inconvenience for tourists, businesses – The Boston Globe
PLYMOUTH — Two years from now, thousands of people will descend on Plymouth to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing and the beginning of Plymouth Colony.
In the meantime, the popular tourist destination is a work in progress.
In preparation for the festivities, the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World, is undergoing extensive repairs in Mystic, Conn. Meanwhile, parts of Pilgrim Memorial State Park, the waterfront home of Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II museum, are under construction.
The combination has put a damper on tourism, frustrating local business owners.
“I’m just hoping to hold on to the place until 2020,” said Gary Brooks, who owns Pebble’s Restaurant, just across the street from Pilgrim Memorial State Park.
Last year, business was down 25 percent due to the Mayflower II’s absence and road work, Brooks said. Now, with the park renovations, it could be down even more.
“It’s noticeably slower,” Brooks said. “We used to see bus after bus after bus down here. One group would go to the Mayflower, one would go to the rock, and one would go to the shops across the street. Now, they just look at the rock and jump right back on the buses.”
The state began the $2 million improvement project in late May. Work on the park, which draws more than 1 million visitors each year, is scheduled to be finished in November, in time for Plymouth’s Thanksgiving celebration. The entire project will completed next spring.
“The sacrifice will be worth it,” said Leo Roy, commissioner of the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. “The renovated park will be a gem for the Commonwealth.”
The project includes repaving sidewalks and parking areas, installing an irrigated lawn, and adding new benches.
“We’re trying to reduce disruption for visitors,” Roy said. “We’ll keep the ability to view the rock and visit the site. We’re trying to keep the footprint of construction as small as possible.”
Kenneth Tavares, chairman of the town’s board of selectmen, acknowledged that the construction could slow tourism this summer, but said it would pay long-term dividends.
“It’s the same thing that happens when you buy an old home, at some point you have to start the rehab,” he said. “It’s not fun at first, but in the end, it’s worth it. A year from now, no one will remember the construction.”
While the timing isn’t great for businesses and tourists, the project would not have been feasible earlier in the year, Roy said.
Coles Hill, a popular spot to watch fireworks, will still be under construction for the town’s Fourth of July celebration. The stairs and grassy area on the hill will still be open to the public, officials said.
For visitors to Plymouth this month, the construction has been a disappointment. Rick Van Beek, the superintendent of Riverside Christian School in Yakima, Wash., was leading the school’s eighth-grade class on a history trip. He was aware that they wouldn’t be able see the Mayflower II, but the park construction caught him by surprise.
“We came all the way across the country, we’re not going to miss it for some fences,” Van Beek said. “I’ll be curious to see what changes. But unfortunately, most of the kids won’t be able to see the changes.”
Cathy Benoit, visiting from Tacoma, Wash., was taking hergrandson on a tour of area historical sites. She had also not been aware of the construction, but understood why it was happening.
“I think it’s taken away from some of the experience because his memory is going to be all these fences up and around, instead of what I really wanted him to see,” Benoit said.
Tavares sympathized with business owners and tourists, but said the revamped park would be worth the wait. People are already booking hotel rooms and spots on tours, two years in advance.
“You forget the inconvenience when you see the final product,” Tavares said. “It’s going to look darn good.”
Thomas Oide can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thomasoide.