The Merrimack River is Lowell’s biggest waterway. If not for the resources and power of the river, Lowell could not have become the bustling mill town it once was – including the construction of our beloved canals. Today, the river remains a vital resource for recreation, drinking water, and the hydroelectric power plant along the North Canal.
The Initiative’s Action Plan has primarily focused on the areas of the Merrimack River that abut two iconic bridges: The John E. Cox Memorial Bridge and the Joseph R. Ouellette Memorial Bridge.
The John E. Cox Memorial Bridge, historically the Central Bridge and informally called the Bridge Street Bridge, is a “rare example of a small-scale through truss cantilever” design. It has three main spans and is 474 feet long. This bridge connects the core of Downtown to the Centralville neighborhood and like its steel cousin, the Ouellette Bridge, is a highly visible major artery. For more about the bridge’s history, click here.
The first major project for the Waterways Vitality Initiative was the lighting of the Cox Bridge, which debuted May 7, 2018. Through private donations, more than 200 multi-colored LED fixtures were installed. Every night its more than 220 LED fixtures light up with a seasonal show, along with occasional holiday displays and themed, cause-based lighting.
Upriver from the Cox Bridge, the Joseph R. Ouellette Memorial Bridge is nearby LeLacheur Park, home to the UMass Lowell Riverhawks baseball team and previously housed the minor league Lowell Spinners, a Red Sox affiliate. The Ouellette Bridge is named in memory of Joseph R. Ouellette, a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient and Lowell Centralville native, who was killed in action on September 3, 1950, at twenty years of age. The Ouellette Bridge connects westerly portions of Centralville to what was once known as Little Canada, UMass Lowell’s East Campus, and the downtown. The 780-foot bridge was constructed in 1883 and has five spans in a pin-connected style.
Writing about the Ouellette Bridge, historicbridges.org states: “This bridge is among the most beautiful bridges in the country…It is the longest lenticular truss bridge in the country and also is in first place for most number of lenticular spans, which is five.”
Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative is in the final stages of lighting the Ouellette Bridge with vibrant white up-lights. This project was funded by private donations and is expected to be completed in early 2022.
The Riverwalk is a 2.5-mile path that runs along the south side of the Merrimack from Pawtucket Street to Bridge St, running under the Ouellette Bridge and stopping just before the Cox Bridge. The Riverwalk extension project will bring this path under the Cox Bridge, over a new pedestrian bridge at the Concord River, where it would then link up with the Concord River Greenway. For more information on this project, watch this video produced by LTC.
Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative Priorities
With the Ouellette Bridge lighting project nearing completion, much of the Initiative’s priorities are focus on collaborative efforts and supporting projects our partners are undertaking.
- Improvements to Gold Star Park and the riverwalk on the north side of the river
- Care, upkeep, and beautification of the bridges and surrounding areas
- Promotion and support of the Riverwalk Extension