Lower Locks seen from the walkway. 4 June 2020. 

Supriya Ambwani, MLA I 2022

Summer 2020

Organization: Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative

Sponsor: Lawrence and Marla Curtis Fund for Public Service

“I first learned about Lowell’s famed waterways in a book about the Lowell mill girls’ role in the American feminist movement. What a cool story! 

As a Community Service Fellow at the Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative (LWVI), I now have the opportunity to learn more about this fascinating town and contribute to the organization’s mission of making Lowell’s historic waterways more accessible, active, and vibrant. 

We are currently living through a pandemic, which has upended how we interact with each other and work. Fortunately, my supervisor, Malika Leiper, who is the LWVI’s Development and Communications Consultant (and a recent GSD grad), set up a structured and highly interactive virtual workspace. A weekly check-in with the rest of the team also helps me learn more about the organization as a whole and the work that different members do. 

I was delighted to go on a site visit during my first week at the LWVI. Smothered in sanitizer and securely masked-up, I took the commuter rail to Lowell, where I was met by Jon Geer, the LWVI’s Community Liaison and Technical Consultant. Jon gave me a tour of the city and took me on a walk along the waterways and Downtown Lowell. I was struck by the number of cars in Lowell and the concrete and asphalt that covered almost every surface I saw. We got stuck in a traffic jam! During a pandemic! The urban heat island effect was overwhelming, especially after months spent in greener Cambridge. 

The waterways, on the other hand, were breathtaking. We walked along the Merrimack River’s Riverwalk, which was calming and well-shaded with trees. We even saw turtles in the water! The Lower Locks are heavily engineered but still manage to look beautiful. 

Lowell is lucky to have its system of historic waterways. Unfortunately, just like many places around the world, Lowell’s waterways are threatened by pollution and climate change-induced flooding. It is heartening to see the Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative and Lowell’s communities work hard to counter these challenges and create accessible public spaces along the waterways that were once the preserve of industries.”

Merrimack River seen from the Riverwalk. 4 June 2020.