I love driving into Lawrence, MA off Route 495.  Taking the Marson Street exit, you come upon a winding road leading you up to the intersection of Marston and Canal called “The Gateway”.  At the set of lights, you start by panning to the left and you can see the Ayer Mill Clock Tower off in the distance.  According to the Essex County Community Foundation:

The Ayer Mill Clock Tower is the world’s largest mill clock. Its four big glass faces are only 6 inches smaller than Big Ben in London. It is the treasured icon and landmark of Lawrence, Massachusetts and its endowment and maintenance is managed by ECCF.

Gaze across the horizon to the old, brick buildings being rehabilitated into loft housing and businesses.  Straight ahead, you can’t help but notice the larger than life Everett Mill – once a large part of Lawrence’s manufacturing history.  Now, a bustling mix of shops, businesses and industry.  Just off to the right, in a virtual sea of bricks, is grass.  Lush, green grass along the Spicket River.  What once was a contaminated, blocked off runway of water, is now a natural amphitheater, waiting to be played in or relaxed on.

That, is The Gateway, also known as the Oxford Site Park.  What once was an abandoned brownfield site is now lush with potential.  To me, it’s indicative of the city itself.  Just one of the projects of Heather McMann and her team at Groundwork Lawrence.  From rail trails, to community farming, to projects like The Gateway, GWL is working to transform Lawrence into a more green city – one property at a time.

Personally, I think Lawrence takes it on the proverbial chin too often.  It’s a working class city.  It’s always been an immigrant city.  They are now called “Gateway Cities”.  So is Haverhill, mind you, but for whatever reason, Lawrence seems to have this reputation of being bad.  I tend to disagree.  I think, as with many cities, the bad news always outweighs the good.  No one ever talks about the good that’s taking place in Lawrence, just the not so good.  That, is unfortunate.

Next time you’re in Lawrence, pull into the parking lot of One Canal Street – park along the grass side of the lot.  Walk down the pathway and step in the grass.  Take your shoes off. Stay a while.  Enjoy one of the many good aspects of Lawrence.