By Mimi Parseghian
This past Saturday Mill City Grows celebrated its 5th Annual Harvest Fest. The highly successful event, which took place at the North Common, featured live entertainment, food tasting, children’s activities, a raffle, silent auctions, local food vendors, and information tables from various organizations. It attracted a large cross section of Lowell residents.
My involvement with Mill City Grows began in the spring of 2012 when I read about an opportunity for a community garden. The location, Rotary Club Park—just a seven minute drive from my house, was unknown to me and I have lived in Lowell most of my adult life. It is located in the Back Central Street area in a dense neighborhood or narrow, one way streets and homes with limited green space.
Like many areas of the city, it is a neighborhood that only sees those who live there, and those who visit the ones that live there. Too often, our focus is Downtown—the central business, the cultural and entertainment section.
Five years ago, visionaries in the City partnered with the co-founders of Mill City Grows, Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson, to tackle many of the objectives in the Master Plan (there is that pesky document again).
These goals included safe and welcoming neighborhoods; promoting recreational areas; preserving the unique quality of neighborhoods, and facilitating the production and consumption of locally grown food.
Five summers later, Rotary Park, the garden is well integrated with Rotary, the skate board park. Although many of the gardeners do not live in the neighborhood, we all feel a responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all, but mostly for the children who skate or ride their bikes or just hang around with their friends. There is limited open public space in that neighborhood.
Prior to the Garden, the land was an overgrown, vacant lot that attracted an unwanted element. In addition to the community garden, the City has put in a road, built a jungle gym for the younger children, and has done some landscaping. A mural was attached to one of the walls to give the area more life.
In addition to maintaining the Community Garden, the gardeners regularly clean the skate board area and a couple of them painted the skate board ramps recently.
This Saturday, Lowell National Historical Park will visit Rotary as part of its Bringing the Park to the People program. We will once again make sure the area is clean and welcoming.
This same model has been duplicated on Smith Street, West Third Street, North Common and Eagle Park. So those visionaries at Department of Planning and Development who five years ago developed a plan, implemented it, and made it sustainable, are to be congratulated.
Rotary Club Park is located in the Back Central neighborhood, at the intersection of Hudson St and Richmond Ave. Lowell National Historical Park’s “Bringing the Park to the People” event will take place at Rotary Park this Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 9 am until 4 pm. Also on Saturday, Dick Howe will lead a Lowell Walk of Back Central. The walk will begin at 12:30 pm from the front of the Rogers School at 43 Highland St. This free tour will last 90 minutes and will end at Rotary Park.