Residents of New England's former mill towns often feel left behind after manufacturers leave town. But in Lawrence, Mass., locals have refused to let abandoned buildings and polluted landscapes define their future.
By Story Hinckley, Christian Science Monitor
When Lesly Melendez recalls her walk to school as a child in Lawrence, Mass., she remembers the six-foot-tall fence cloaked in black cloth and decorated with caution tape. “Keep Out” signs warned passersby away from the so-called Dresden of Lawrence, the burned bones of the former Russell Paper Mill.
“As a kid growing up and walking by things like that...,” Ms. Melendez trails off and sighs.
But her childhood neighborhood looks more appealing today. After years of stop-and-start cleanup, the Russell Mill site is now Oxford Site Park, a green welcome mat for the city. It’s an open space with a bike path. Long grasses bend in the wind, free from any fence.
And this park may have helped the city grow opportunity as well as greenery. Lawrence, long one of New England’s poorest and most polluted communities, has become a center for public and nonprofit job training programs. They are certifying locals to clean up brownfields, properties where redevelopment is stalled because of potential pollution.
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