I’m encouraged by the evidence of civic activism around different interests in Lowell. Almost overnight, a group emerged with shared interest in the upcoming design changes around the Lord Overpass and Thorndike-Dutton corridor. For a while now there’s been a coalition of folks who care about bike-riding and how the community can better accommodate and encourage bicyclists. They’ve made themselves known at City Council meetings and in other ways. The “First Thursdays” organizers are getting ready for a new season downtown. Over at Mill No. 5, the regular bazaars have proven to be an inspired tactic for drawing shoppers and celebrants to Jackson Street. The SayDaNar Community Development Center, established in 2012, emerged from the growing Burmese population in Lowell and is becoming a larger presence whose members share concerns with immigrants and refugees from everywhere.
The St. Patrick 32nd (That’s thirty-two years) Annual Irish Cultural Week is a sure sign of spring, and the coordinators have again put together a full menu of meaningful events. Hynes’ 5-Mile Road Race and the City Manager’s St. Patrick’s Day gathering are not only high-profile happenings but they also require a ton of organizing by lots of people. And next week is the yearly Jack Kerouac birthday weekend festival with a bundle of literary and musical programs. We’ll also see the Greek Independence Day observation in March, which will resonate more profoundly given the situation in the old country. So we have new stuff to watch and old stuff coming back around. These efforts give a community its pulse. They make for a robust public life, which is essential in a democracy. People have to connect, see each other, work together, strengthen the common bonds, appreciate one another’s contributions to the whole. I have a sense that when the snow melts we will see a burst of activity around the city as people get back out on the streets and into their yards in force.