Locked down like many other public places by COVID-19 for the past few years, Lowell National Historical Park is on the verge of getting back to normal.
With that in mind, U.S. Representative for the 3rd District Lori Trahan and incoming City Manager Tom Golden visited the downtown park last week for a briefing on its new projects and upcoming summer programs.
They visited the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, the Mogan Cultural Center and walked through Swamp Locks, which is undergoing a replacement set of doors.
They also heard about the effects of the pandemic on tourism and the local economy, in which Lowell National Historical Park plays a key role.
Due to the pandemic, national parks across the United States — including Lowell’s — postponed maintenance projects, and in 2020, that backlog stood at $22 billion. Now, thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act, Lowell National Historic Park will embark on a four-year, $7.5 million rehabilitation plan.
Trahan, a member of the National Parks Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, said with this funding, the park can offset losses during COVID-19.
Park superintendent Julie Galonska, who led the tour, introduced a new exhibit called “One City, Many Cultures,” which will open at the Mogan Cultural Center in 2023.
Galonska said the park is already gearing up for summer activities, both historical and environmental.
The first installment of Lowell Walks, a guided walking tour through parts of Lowell, took place on May 7. Carts and river boats will likely be operational from June, Galonska said.
Of course, the city’s biggest summer attraction, the Lowell Folk Festival, returns July 29-31, after being canceled by COVID-19 the previous two years.
Being one of the main organizers of Folk Fest – along with the Lowell Festival Foundation, the Town of Lowell, the National Council of Traditional Arts, the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau – gives Lowell National Historical Park an opportunity to showcase its unique offerings to a mass audience.
And the Lowell Summer Music Series, held outdoors at Boarding House Park, also returns, drawing thousands downtown to the suave sound of its many artists.
But according to Galonska, that’s only part of Lowell National Historical Park’s mission.
Lowell National Historical Park was originally created to “preserve and tell the story of the Industrial Revolution,” Galonska said, and that story had national implications.
Lowell’s textile mills, historic 19th-century buildings, and other notable sites remain intact and serve to promote the town’s unique industrial-era history.
“The park is very important to the city and the community, but it’s also extremely important to the whole country as part of the national park system because it really has a national story to tell,” Galonska said.
“What we hope is that we continue on this path of being able to help support activity downtown and help people feel comfortable and that there are things to do and that there are things to learn and experience here,” she said.
Before the pandemic, the park, which had a budget of around $9 million, drew nearly 500,000 visitors and brought in nearly $30 million in 2019 while supporting more than 370 jobs.
And hopefully, as COVID-19 becomes less of a concern, Galonska said she’s thrilled to welcome visitors back to this urban national park gem.
As Congresswoman Trahan aptly noted, the LNHP is “…a venue for events that bring our community together in a way that many other cities our size or even larger do not have. and it is unique. This is what makes our city special.
So, become a local tourist again and head to the LNHP to enjoy all the cultural and educational amenities it has to offer.