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Important Merrimack River Resource Is Home
to Athletic, Educational, Community Programs
LOWELL, Mass. ߝ UMass Lowell recently unveiled the results of two years of extensive renovations to the boathouse along the Merrimack River that is home to university, local and community rowing programs.
With $1 million in state funding that the university received in 2007 through the work of the Lowell legislative delegation, extensive remodeling and repairs were done on the interior and exterior of the 27-year-old boathouse. The building houses offices, locker rooms, storage bays for boats and equipment, a meeting room and space for educational programs. Improvements included replacing the roof, windows, gutters, trim, siding and decks, as well as upgrades to boat docks, mechanical systems, fencing and signs and other displays inside and outside the building.
“With this work, this first-rate facility is now truly the jewel of the Merrimack River and something that the entire community can enjoy,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan.
With the successful completion of the renovations, the facility has been renamed the UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boathouse in honor of both the landmark’s history and the university’s commitment to its restoration. The boathouse was constructed in 1982 and originally named for Edmund Bellegarde, a Lowell resident and avid boater whose family still has strong roots in the community. The state Legislature transferred the boathouse, located on Pawtucket Boulevard, to UMass Lowell from the Massachusetts Division of Conservation and Recreation in 2006.
The boathouse’s condition had been deteriorating prior to the start of the repairs and suffered more serious damage from spring flooding in recent years. Educational programs that had been offered through the UMass Lowell and National Historical Park’s Tsongas Industrial History Center at the boathouse were suspended because of poor conditions. The other primary users ߝ the UMass Lowell and Lowell High School rowing teams and the Merrimack River Rowing Association ߝ were also at a disadvantage because of the facility’s deterioration.
Since reopening, the boathouse has become home to new programs for the general public, including kayaking and paddle-surfing. The annual Textile River Regatta, the longest single-day regatta in the nation, uses the boathouse as a base of operations. An advisory committee representing the primary users and community will establish additional programs for the public.
“The boathouse is an important community resource. We now have the four primary users in place ߝ UMass Lowell, Lowell High School, the National Historical Park and the Merrimack River Rowing Association ߝ and we’re all working cooperatively to develop a range of boathouse activities that will attract broad community interest,” said UMass Lowell Athletic Director Dana Skinner.
The boathouse’s rebirth also includes a renewal of programs designed to educate students about the historical and environmental significance of the Merrimack River. Funding from the National Park Service of $65,000 to UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education and the Lowell National Historical Park, will support and expand the Tsongas Industrial History Center’s experiential education programming at the facility.
The university and its partners are seeking other support to ensure the boathouse remains in top condition in the future. “It is a community asset that has enormous potential, but it is going to require innovative and strategic thinking to make it sustainable,” said Meehan.
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UMass Lowell offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.