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Concord River Greenway includes plan for public art

Concord River Greenway includes plan for public art

Download Creating the Concord River Greenway (pdf 548 kb)
Download the Concord River Greenway Public Art Plan (pdf 15.4 MB)

From the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust

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The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) of Massachusetts recently completed a public art plan for the Concord River Greenway. In planning for the design of the Greenway, art in design emerged as an important theme. In a city where art is central to its redevelopment, it seemed natural to merge the idea of public art along a multi-use trail that follows the eastern bank of the Concord River.

photo of tree mural
Viewing platform over Massic Falls on former Guilford RR land, now a key gateway to the Greenway. Public art plan: Harries/Heder Collaborative

A long-range goal of the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust is to create a 2.5 mile riverside park along the Concord River. The multi-use trail and greenway will link the city's largest park area, Shedd Park and Rogers Fort Hill Park, to the center of the city and a network of walkways that have been developed by the Lowell National Historic Park.

The path would follow an abandoned railroad right-of-way paralleling the river. The Concord River Greenway would also fill the so-called "missing link" in the 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail, a recreational trail linking 50 towns and cities around Boston.

Artists Mags Harries and Lajos Hˇder, were invited in early 2006 to create a plan introducing the artists' point of view into the overall design of the Greenway and to identify specific opportunities for art works.

The plan encourages artists to help with the overall trail design as well as individual works. According to the plan, "The purpose of the Greenway is to bring people to the Concord River and help them enjoy it. In other words, the primary purpose is an aesthetic experience. The way the trail is placed into the environment will determine the quality of this experience. Therefore the alignment of the trail and the way it is inserted and constructed along the riverbank needs to be the primary concern of the artist."

In a related project, the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust has invited artists to forward qualifications for the design of bridges and gateways for the Concord River Greenway. Partners include the City of Lowell, National Park Service, New England Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and UrbanArts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art + Design .

The goal is to commission an artist/designer to work with the engineering/landscape architecture project team to design artistic pedestrian bridges and gateways for the 1.75-mile linear trail corridor. The project is expected to engage and celebrate the community's history, diverse cultures and ecology.

The selected artist/artist team will work with the engineering/landscape architecture team, the community and other partners to incorporate thematic elements in the actual design of bridges and gateways. The final design is funded and underway with a phased approach and quick timeline.

photo of mural with rural scene
Preliminary sketch: Amphitheatre-style seating along Concord River Greenway (click to enlarge)

Recommendations from the plan:

Artists' recommendations regarding rail alignment and construction:

1. The bridges proposed as the favored alternative to the difficult section at Bradford Industries provide an aesthetically preferable option. We recommend that the bridges should be built at 8' wide for a better, more intimate scale and less expense. At the selected sites there are potential support points closer to the river that could shorten the spans and reduce structural costs. Instead of the standard prefabricated bridge illustrated, the bridges can be designed with the participation of artists and, produce lighter, more graceful and site specific structures. If the width and the span are reduced, the bridges can still come in below the estimated budget.

2. Reduce trail width from 12' to 8' at the remaining steepest, roughest sections. This will not significantly impact the usability of the trails. Many sections of the trails along the Charles River in Boston and the trail around Fresh Pond in Cambridge, both very heavily used, are only 8' wide. Consider placing the trail on a deck structure supported on posts where the terrain is particularly rugged, as along the Bradford Industries Properties. The posts can be anchored into the ledge and placed with light construction equipment. This will allow leaving the existing grade and trees in place, will not interrupt the existing drainage patterns. It will put people in a better relationship to the river.

3. At the sections where the Trail will remain along the industrial properties, move the trail away from the industrial property lines and down in elevation by 3' or more to allow vegetation to shield the trail users from the parking and service lots and create a more complete, aesthetically pleasing natural environment focused on the river and its natural environment.

4. At the downtown entrance attach a cantilevered walkway to the Merrimack Community College building in order to enter the trail at a beautiful dramatic point by the river. The current plan takes the Trail through the Davidson Street parking lot, through two right angle turns away from the river by the dumpsters service yard to mid-block crossing at Merrimack Street that will have no visual connection to the river. This is an entrance/exit to the trail that is very unsatisfactory both aesthetically and functionally. At the most active downtown connection to the trail this solution would miss the opportunity to attract people to it. The adjacent space to the entrance we propose is now used as an internet cafe and could be compatible with the walkway and terrace. It is likely that the walkway could be supported on the existing foundations and the costs would not be exorbitant. Handicapped access may still need to occur through the parking lot.

For more information on the Concord River Greenway and art plan:

Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, Inc., P.O. Box 7162 Lowell, MA 01852
(978) 934-0030 -

For more information on the art project:

Christina Lanzl, Project Manager, UrbanArts Institute - (617) 879-7973 -

Related topics:

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