South Common Improvement Plan
I walked our dog on the South Common this morning. The grass had turned green seemingly overnight, a refreshing sight after the long winter. Fat-chested robins in their red bibs poked at the defrosted ground on the sports field. In the high fir trees invisible birds called and sang brightly. A man in a Red Sox cap and ballplayer’s jacket strode with purpose toward the train station, no doubt on his way to the early-starting Patriots Day game. Basketball kids had already occupied the courts. The empty light-blue pool held a residue of rain water. A few older folks from Bishop Markham Village walked the oval for their daily exercise.
The South Common improvement plan below is the one that I recall the community endorsing as part of an extensive public process coordinated by the City’s Planning & Development staff as part of the City’s contract with highly respected landscape architects Brown, Richardson and Rowe of Boston. The design project cost money. We had community-input meetings at the Pollard Memorial Library and elsewhere. (The landscape architecture firm, by the way, is the same one that did the design for award-winning Boarding House Park and Kerouac Park on Bridge Street.) My understanding is that funding for the execution of the plan has been on hold for several years while the City obtained the needed state funding to complete the Concord River Greenway, and that the South Common is next in line for the request for state funding for parks. If it isn’t, it should be next in line. With these improvements shown below, the big park could be a beautiful natural treasure at an important gateway to Lowell. Are we really going to go from a public policy position of enhancing the value of the South Common to a position of removing it from the city map?
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4 Responses to South Common Improvement Plan
It’s really obscene that some people would consider destroying an urban park in favor of economic development.
Once rehabbed, the park will become an integral part in making downtown Lowell a more livable space. As the core of Lowell becomes more dense and urban, residents and employees of the Comfort Furniture development and Hamilton Canal District will flock to the South Common for exercise, social activity, and respite. Kids from Back Central would have no place to play.
One could imagine current downtown residents taking the new trolley to the South Common.
The only other location for the high school would be Cawley but that’s not centrally located for all students of Lowell so it should stay downtown at it’s current location.
At 3.30 pm on Patriots Day, 2014, there were 38 kids playing on the swings, climbing structure, and basketball courts at the South Common. And that was what I could see from the Highland Street side. Afternoons, there is usually soccer on the sports field. Weekends are busy with flag football, soccer, and more. In the winter, the slope on the Summer Street side is one of the best sledding places around; and on an average summer day there are 50 or more kids cooling off in the pool (the renovation plan calls for a spray pool like the water area at Shedd Park).
At 5 pm on Patriots Day, there were 55 people of all ages and nationalities around the big bowl of the Common and on the sports field, doing all sorts of things: kids riding bikes, guys playing soccer, children chasing balloons, families taking the sun on blankets on the sloping lawns, more kids playing tag, groups of women walking on the oval, older folks sitting on benches, young couples with baby carriages . . . .
South Common is an asset that serves a densely settled neighborhood. It will be a wonderful place for the Hamilton Canal and eventually the JAM plan. It should be remain open space.