The recent Chinese New Year celebration can be an inspiration for forming similar events in Lowell to bring the community together.
The Chinese New Year is a holiday that is celebrated not only in China, but also in many other parts of the world. With it comes the famous red envelopes, delicious foods, and astounding events. During the celebration, streets are packed with people who are eager to watch the professional lion dancers perform their traditional dance. Loud drums echo through the air as the people cheer on the performers. Fireworks commemorate the Chinese zodiac animal that symbolizes the new year. After all the action packed events, there is still the lantern festival which occurs at the end of the celebration. At this event, countless floating lanterns are lit up, giving the mesmerizing illusion of a million stars in the night sky.
With a celebration as fascinating and popular as this, one might wonder why there have not been many events similar to this in Lowell. In Providence, Rhode Island, there is an award winning festival called WaterFire, in which braziers burned above the river flowing through the Waterplace Park and creates breathtaking views. Every year, it draws tens of thousands of people from all over the country. This promotes the local businesses in the area. Through improvisation of the Merrimack river and our waterways, it is a possibility for Lowell to host similar spectacular events that could boost the economy. Additional benefits of hosting such events are the appreciation for the history of Lowell, especially among the younger generations, and encouragement of the community to get involved. Points of Light Lantern Celebration currently borrows a few elements from these events to spectacular effect. We can bring even more aspects of both Chinese New Year and WaterFire to Lowell.
Hosting community wide events is essential in the effort to make the City of Lowell even more active and vibrant. Not only do they provide entertainment for the people attending, events help preserve the history of Lowell and its many historical buildings. The Merrimack River and the canals of Lowell have the potential to become famous attractions as popular as the Seine River of Paris or the River Thames of London. Reply to let us know what elements from Chinese New Year, WaterFire, or your favorite festival we should bring to Lowell!
The Third Annual Points of Light Lantern Celebration is having a Community Kick-Off on Monday, Jan 14, 6:00 pm, at the Mercier Center (21 Salem St) to share news and gather input from members of Lowell’s diverse community. We would like to invite you to join.
If you can’t make it to the community event, please take the Community Survey to share how your community uses light and water in celebrations and ceremonies, help on our planning committee, share news with your community, be a vendor or performer, or anything else!
Enel Green Power (also known as Boott Hydro) must periodically renew their license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC gives an opportunity for the public to comment on the license and any things that they should consider when reviewing Enel’s application. That’s happening right now!
Because Enel owns nearly all the canals and hydropower equipment in Lowell, this is very important to Lowellians–whether they’re concerned about recreation in the canals, flooding, fisheries, historic preservation, or anything else related to the Pawtucket Dam or Lowell’s canals.
We’ve heard folks ask how people can submit comments. To comment, go to:
Thanks to everyone who joined us at Advancing Our Shared Vision, brightening a dreary Saturday morning with history and exciting ideas for Lower Locks and the other special places on Lowell’s waterways.
Our next step is to form working groups for actions we brainstormed in our discussion. If you would like to help or if you have thoughts on any of our topics, please reply to this email. We know our tour went a little long, so if you missed the discussion, we still want to hear from you! We’re collecting as much input as possible as we chart our course for 2019 and will have additional meet-ups and group discussions moving forward.
Andrew Shapiro started off the tour by pointing out the connections between the Hamilton Canal Innovation District and downtown, mentioning a number of high-profile projects being built in the area.
David Byers then explored the history of Lower Locks, explaining that the confluence of the Merrimack and Concord has been a gathering place for thousands of years. For example, Wamesit, one of two native settlements that existed in the Lowell area when Europeans arrived, was east of the Concord. The current UMass Inn & Conference Center was the site of the first major textile factory on the Concord. Finally, the Pawtucket Canal is flanked by two of the oldest buildings still standing in Lowell. One of which, the current Lowell Academy Hairstyling Institute, was once Frye’s Tavern, then the American Hotel. This was the meeting place for mill agent Kirk Boott and Irish immigrant Hugh Cummiskey, when they discussed hiring Irish workers to construct the canals.
Jane Calvin talked about the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust’s current efforts. Lower Locks is central to many of them: counting fish that swim from the ocean to the Concord via the Merrimack; conducting whitewater river rafting trips down the Concord; and completing the Concord River Greenway, creating a crossroad of trails including the Merrimack Riverwalk and a riverside trail through Belvidere toward Lawrence. Rafting trips used to utilize the lock chambers, but those chambers are now in need of repair.
Steve Ramirez, owner of Blue Taleh, showed the inside of the newly-renovated first floor of the former Sun printing press. A former worker recalled how the area was used as a loading bay, putting newspapers on trucks. Mr. Ramriez will now begin marketing the space, hoping for a restaurant or entertainment use, with a plan to enliven the canalwalk with people. However, he intends to be respectful of the residents living above the space, and isn’t looking for loud clubs or rowdy businesses.
Finally, architect Dan Adams, designer of the Cox (Bridge Street) Bridge lighting, discussed how Lowell is special. Everyone that worked on the lighting project, from metal fabricators to electricians, were from Lowell—the first time he’s seen that in a community. Not only does Lowell have many skills to leverage, it is famous in architectural circles. Mr. Adams said Lowell is required reading for architecture students.
We broke our discussion into four topics, brainstorming short, medium, and long-term actions for each! This email contains just a sample of the ideas we discussed, and the full notes are available here:
A number of visual and performing artists participated in the discussion and believed that arts were a key way to engage young people, attract college-aged folks, and even bring in people from outside of Lowell to appreciate our waterways. The diverse group suggested for all actions to Involve ethnic and cultural organizations to find out how people want to show off their culture.
Short Term: Have a waterside talent show and art showcase with prizes focused on young arts Medium Term: Create a participatory light art performance with handheld lamps that audience can use Long Term: Create a movable theatre for “brunch theatre” and food trucks at the focus areas
This discussion centered around the ways we can start working together with the three entities (National Park Service, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Enel Green Power) that have ownership or rights in the canals to launch kayaks, paddleboats, or kinetic sculptures safely in the canal. Enel is advancing a study to be completed in 2020 that will identify locations and improvements needed for these recreational uses as part of its relicensing process, and the comment period for that relicensing is open.
Short Term: The Public is encouraged to comment on the FERC relicensing process Medium Term: Explore a demonstration project such as a Folk Festival gondola fundraiser with Enel, NPS, and DCR Long Term: Utilize Enel studies to locate a safe, lengthy kayak run, perhaps on Western Canal, with associated improvements to be able to launch the kayaks and ensure the safety of those in the canal
Improving Lower Locks
Waterways intends to work with its partners to develop a major improvement project to repair the plaza and lock chambers of Lower Locks, including improving the plaza’s accessibility, utility, and appearance. This conversation centered on what to include in that project and small actions that could be done before the project.
Short Term: Abutters used to put a lit holiday tree on the small island in the canal. They’re interested in renewing the tradition Medium Term: Improve the gateways of the plaza, including directory signage and lighting in the “Clafin Block” tunnel and bridge between Middlesex Community College and Prescott Street Long Term: Make an arts/technology walk as part of the retrofit, including possible lighting in the walkway and improvements to the pavement surface of plaza
The economic development group included discussion of both general economic development and how a festival might be able to strengthen economic development. The festival was the subject of a great deal of discussion, including where and when it would happen, or even if a small weekly waterside event with different sponsors would be better than one, large festival.
Short Term: Enlist a pilot coffee cart or beer/wine garden in Lower Locks area Medium Term: Promote Kerouac Park incubator for existing businesses Long Term: Locate an underutilized waterside storefront to have a rotating restaurant similar to Lawrence’s Revolving Test Kitchen
Thanks again to everyone who came out. We had a number of questions about the food, so here it is, all in downtown Lowell:
Special thanks to Middlesex Community College and Steve Ramirez for hosting, City of Lowell for poster printing, all of our tour guides, Lowell National Historical Park for attending and providing a glimpse into the Gatehouse, Fred Faust for photos, and the Steering Committee and Lowell Heritage Partnership for spearheading the Lowell Waterways coalition.
Remember, if you want to join a conversation about any of the above ideas or want to send us your thoughts in writing, please reply to this email!