In late April, Governor Deval Patrick and former Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan joined Mayor Dan Rivera and Senator Barry Finegold to make an exciting announcement. Governor Patrick announced a $2.75 million investment in Lawrence’s Ferrous Site to acquire a three acre parcel of land and develop a public park on the site. The park will allow Lawrence residents to access the 35 foot Lower Locks waterfalls and the waterfront at the confluence of the Merrimack and Spicket rivers. Park visitors may even have the chance to see bald eagles in the winter and peregrine falcons in the summer.
This new investment would not have been possible without the work of Groundwork Lawrence (GWL), a local non-profit that is committed to making Lawrence a “cleaner, greener place to live.” GWL has partnered with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) on several projects over the course of the Patrick Administration.
Heather McMann, GWL’s Executive Director and Brad Buschur, GWL’s Project Director, worked tirelessly to make the Spicket River Greenway and the related park projects a reality. EEA continues to work with Heather and Brad, and Mayor Rivera’s team, on the design and construction of the park at the Ferrous Site. While Heather and Brad have been involved with GWL for years, one of the organization’s newer employees stole the show at Governor Patrick’s announcement. Rosa Diaz, a member of Groundwork Lawrence’s Green Team and a rising senior at the Math, Science and Technology High School in Lawrence, had the opportunity to speak at the event and earned a standing ovation from the audience with her introduction of Governor Patrick. Rosa captured the crowd’s attention with her personal accounts of her journey to Lawrence and her life-changing experience with GWL.
While GWL is committed to improving environmental conditions, it is also dedicated to youth leadership and education. Heather mentioned that they hired 30 high school students this summer for the Green Team, providing much needed youth jobs and creating future leaders to continue Lawrence’s redevelopment. Brad advocates for the youth program because, “it gives young adults the opportunity to learn and grow professionally.” As a member of the Green Team, Rosa has learned that there are “a lot of young people that want to change their communities and change the world.” GWL is attracting people motivated to change things for the better.
GWL is a multi-faceted organization that has had many successful projects since their conception in 1999. Heather, who spearheaded the Spicket River Greenway project advised that “celebrating small successes along the way is really important, through community meetings, the design process, youth involvement, and volunteer events.” Rosa has a bit of a different viewpoint. As a youth member involved in the projects, she sees the projects as opportunities to do ‘real world’ things.
Attracting people from all different walks of life, GWL has been thoroughly involved in the Lawrence community through environmental projects and public health, education, and job training programs,while developing future community leaders. Heather and Brad remarked that they see a great deal of opportunity in developing Lawrence through the Spicket River and see Lawrence as a city far in it’s redevelopment of becoming a great place to live, work, and recreate. Rosa said, “after I have travelled the world, and seen what is out there, I plan to come back and to give back to my community, like I have been doing all my life. “
Clearly, Lawrence is a place where people would like to return to.
This is the second in a series of blog posts on the investments the Patrick Administration has made in parks, outdoor recreation and the people our parks programs affect. Governor Patrick likes to say that “policy only matters at the point that it touches people.” That is particularly true when it comes to parks, trails and open spaces. The goal of this blog series is to share the stories of the people who play in Massachusetts parks and at our beaches, walk and bike on our trails and swim in our ponds and pools.
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