Middlesex Canal Commission

Leonard H. Harmon

Michael J. McInnis
Vice Chairman

Thomas W. Lincoln

Betty M. Bigwood

Charles S. Anderson
Asst. Treasurer


Thursday, December 13, 2018 at 3:15pm at the Middlesex Canal Museum
and Visitor Center Faulkner Mills, 71 Faulkner Street, North Billerica, Massachusetts

Members or their designees or alternate are requested to attend. Visitors welcome.


(1) Registration - 2:45pm

(2) Introduction, Chairman Len Harmon -3:15pm

(3) Secretary's Report - Thomas Lincoln

(4) Treasurer's Report - Betty M. Bigwood

(5) Does the MCC want to take control of the North Billerica Dam? Review the current status of the Concord River Dam, the role of the Town of Billerica and their water supply, the Great Meadow Conservation Reserve, the MCC/MCA and their Summit Pond - fish ladder - Bill Gerber

(6) Section Activities Reports: special interest in knowing how many Middlesex Canal signs and their locations in each Town and how many more needed. How can we pay for them?

a. Lowell
b. Chelmsford
c. Billerica
d. Wilmington
e. Woburn
f. Winchester
g. Medford
h. Somerville
i. Charlestown

(7) Current Status of New Museum - Betty M. Bigwood

(8) New Business

(9) Election of Officers

(10) Adjournment

Middlesex Canal Commission documents:

1. Original Act, 1977, Chapter 403 (Powers and Duties) [earlier scan]

2. Middlesex Canal Heritage Park Feasibility Study (10.1MB, 186 pages) - 1996

3. Middlesex Canal Restoration Guidelines (Plans restoration) - 2015 (replaces 1997 original)

4. Mill Pond/Canal Park (Design focal point of Heritage Park)

5. Middlesex Canal Restoration - Program Study (14.2MB, 27 page PDF) - March 2008
[Note: Use landscape format for printing pages]

Appendices (A - 10 maps, B - Cost Estimates, C - Restoration Priority Matrix)

Program Study with all Appendices (19.3MB, 50 pages)

Concept Plans:

Woburn Segment 5, Alfred to School Streets (5MB, 15 page PDF) - May 2008

Wilmington Segment 6, Main Street to Burlington Ave. (2.5MB, 15 page PDF) - May 2008

6. Heritage Corridor Map Book (4.6MB, 41 page PDF) - June 8, 2007
[Note: Use landscape format for printing pages]

7. National Register Map Book (4MB, 39 page PDF) - July 2008
[Note: Use landscape format for printing pages]

The Middlesex Canal Commission

The Middlesex Canal Commission was created in 1978 by an Act of the Massachusetts Legislature pursuant to the efforts of the Middlesex Canal Association. The purpose of the Commission is to "return the Middlesex Canal to public use." The Commission is comprised of:

  • A representative from each of the Canal communities - Boston, Somerville, Medford, Winchester, Woburn, Wilmington, Billerica, Chelmsford, and Lowell;
  • a State Representative and a State Senator;
  • the Executive Director of the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council);
  • the Executive Director of the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG);
  • the Commissioner of the DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation);
  • the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Highway Department

Middlesex Canal Commission Receives Grant for Walking & Biking Trails along Canal in Woburn

One World BostonOneWorld Boston, a Cummings Foundation affiliate, has awarded the Middlesex Canal Commission a $100,000 grant to support construction of walking and bike paths along the Middlesex Canal in Woburn from Alfred Street to School Street. [Middlesex Canal Commission]

Alfred to School Street

Leonard H. Harmon

Northern Middlesex Council of Government
40 Church Street
Lowell, MA 01852

Beverly Woods, Executive Director

Thomas Lincoln, Vice Chairman
27 Gleason Street
Medford, MA 02155
Michael McInnis, Secretary
15 Patches Pond Lane
Wilmington, MA 01887
Middlesex Canal Commission members (2 page PDF) - 2008
(lists members, alternates and consultants)

Middlesex Canal Commission - City and Town representatives (2 page PDF)
9 cities and towns (lists all officers and departments)

Betty Bigwood, Treasurer
300 Chestnut Street
Wilmington, MA 01887
Chuck Anderson, Asst. Treasurer
4 Eldora Road
Billerica, MA 01821

Ensuring the Future of America's First Canal

"…the greatest work of its kind in the United States to date. . ." -- Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, 1808

The Middlesex Canal:
A Legacy from the Past, a Treasure for the Future

Completed in 1803, the Middlesex Canal was the first canal built for commercial use in the United States.

Construction of this engineering marvel included aqueducts, locks, a "floating bridge" and extensive granite engineering works, all constructed well before the advent of steam power.

The Canal ran 27 miles from Charlestown to Lowell, Massachusetts, and provided the first economical transportation of materials and products between Boston and the interior of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The Canal played an important role in the early industrialization of America and in the history of the nine town and cities through which it ran.

With the coming of the railroad, the Middlesex Canal gradually slipped into disuse and was finally abandoned in 1853.

Miraculously, almost half (12.6 miles) of the Canal still exists 150 years later.

The Middlesex Canal is a living connection to the rich history of eastern Massachusetts and a resource for today --- both as an historic site and a recreational and open space asset.

With the support of those who recognize how honoring the past enriches the future, the Middlesex Canal will once again play a vital role in the communities through which it ran.



I. Vision and Mission

II. Strategic Objectives

III. The 5-phase Master Plan for the Reconstruction and Interpretation of the Canal

Phase 1 - Millpond (Billerica)

Phase 2 - Reconstruction of the Extant Portions of the Canal

Phase 3 - Acquisition of Canal Properties

Phase 4 - Creation of Canal-wide Interpretive Sites and Signage

Phase 5 - Permanent Infrastructure: Museum, Headquarters, Maintenance

Current Status

IV. Accomplishments and Partnerships

V. Funding Needs

A. Operational Funding Needs

B. Capital Funding Needs

VI. Funding Objectives and Funding Plan

I. Vision and Mission
- The work of the Middlesex Canal Commission will result in the creation of the Middlesex Canal Heritage Park, a public-private partnership, to inform, inspire and draw the public to the extant portions of this nationally-significant landmark, provide recreational and educational benefits to visitors, and economic benefits to adjacent communities.

Mission Statement - The Middlesex Canal Commission was established in 1978 by the Massachusetts to "return the Canal to public use." Pursuant to a 5-phase Master Plan, the Commission plans, acquires, restores and will maintain the Middlesex Canal Heritage Park:

II. Strategic Objectives
Today the Middlesex Canal is a series of surviving segments, located primarily in the northern half of its route. Some exist as open water, some as overgrown rights of way, and some as actual structures. Stitching together these segments as a linear historic site and greenway will fulfill the goal of "returning the Canal to public use." Our strategic objectives are tailored to the unique nature of each of the segments:

III. The 5-phase Master Plan for the Reconstruction and Interpretation of the Canal
A project of this size and complexity requires a phased approach. We have developed the following 5-phase approach to provide an overall planning and implementation structure for the Middlesex Canal restoration. Although changing circumstances may make later goals feasible earlier on, the general sequence provides a structure for the overall undertaking.

A brief update on the Current Status of each Phase is included, more detail will be found in Parts IV and V of the Strategic Plan. Finally, we have based our funding needs and priorities on this phased approach.

Phase 1 - Millpond (Billerica) - this location provides our first and best opportunity to integrate the Canal, surrounding historic landscapes, recreational space, and high-quality facilities at a single large location. Status: planning, design completed. Construction estimate: $1.5 million.

Phase 2 - Reconstruction of the Extant Portions of the Canal - there are a number of well preserved portions of the Canal that are a high priority for protection, reconstruction and integration into the overall historic site and greenway scheme. Status: planning in progress; design funding of $525,000 approved, but not released (ISTEA), Construction estimate: $2.5 million.

Phase 3 - Acquisition of Canal Properties - Due to ongoing development pressures, it is critical to acquire (or otherwise permanently protect), link and provide public access to other Canal segments before they are lost forever. Status: design costs estimated at $130,000; Construction estimate: $2.05 million.

Phase 4 - Creation of Canal-wide Interpretive Sites and Signage - the linkage of the Canal segments in Phases 2 and 3, will make it possible to provide consistent signage and other interpretative information throughout the length of the Canal. . Status: design costs estimated at $20,000; Construction estimate: $95,000.

Phase 5 - Permanent Infrastructure: Museum, Headquarters, Maintenance - Phases 1 through 4 put the whole project together. Phase 5 provides the permanent infrastructure that will maximize the value of the Canal to the public. In January, 2000, the Commission was offered the use of 8,000 sq. feet of the Faulkner Mill Building at the Millpond area in Billerica; we are working to secure this superb opportunity to establish those Phase 5 amenities that can be realized in the short run, while reserving space for full build-out. Status: see cost estimates in Part V of the Strategic Plan.

IV. Accomplishments and Partnerships
- While Part III provides a brief status report by Phase, the narrative summary below will help convey the magnitude and complexity of the project:

Partnerships - The success of the Middlesex Canal project is dependent on a variety of partnership with other groups. To date, we have developed strong working relationships with a number of critical organizations, all proof of the broad interest in the Middlesex Canal. As the project moves into further Phases, and when it is completed, further partnerships will undoubtedly be required. The following provides a brief overview of current partnerships:

Middlesex Canal Association (MCA) - founded in 1964, the MCA literally rescued the Canal from oblivion, and influenced the State Legislature to establish the Commission. The MCA owns an extensive collection of vital Canal records, reports and artifacts and several Canal portions. With their broad membership, they provide critical advocacy support for the Canal in the their communities and in the State Legislature. Finally, they have directly funded a number of baseline projects to date. It is anticipated that the MCA will be the backbone for the Museum and archives in Phase 5.

Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) - this intergovernmental body provides ongoing secretariat services to the Commission, as well as planning and operations coordination for Phase 1. NMCOG is also indispensable as an advisor on the complexities of public funding.

Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) - has intergovernmental jurisdiction of the southern portion of the Canal. Has provided GIS services and funding advice.

Section Groups - The most active of these is the Billerica Section. They have provided critical support for Phase 1, are working with the Commission on Phase 5 (Visitors' Center), and are an excellent model for the kind of community-based organizations we will need in those communities where extant segments of the Canal still exist.

The Lowell Section is also active and is working to research and map the location of the Lowell locks, which is a critical piece of Phases 2 and 3. The Woburn Section has built and run a replica Canal boat on a segment of Canal in that city.

Town of Billerica - the Commission is working with this local government to: integrate Phase 1 (Millpond Park) with the Town's Open Space Plan; and secure the Town's help with other land use issues.

Faulkner Mills - The Commission has been offered 8,000 sq. feet of space in this historic building at Mill Pond in Billerica for use as a Visitors' Center. This is part of Phase 5, but the opportunity must be finalized now in order to maximize its potential. Mr. Ron Paré, the Mills owner, is keenly interested in linking Faulkner Mills to the Millpond Park and the Canal.

Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) - The goal of creating the Middlesex Canal Heritage Park is central to the legislation creating the Commission, and in conjunction with a role for the DCR (which manages such Parks in Massachusetts). It seems logical, however, that the DCR will not play an active role unless it receives direct funding for such management.

V. Funding Needs

A. Operational Funding Needs
The Middlesex Canal Commission does not currently receive a budget from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All Commission members are volunteers, and NMCOG currently handles secretariat duties, funded by participating municipalities.

It is clear, therefore, that operating funds are essential in order for the Canal project to move forward. A careful analysis shows operational needs in these critical areas:

B. Capital Funding Needs
As noted in Part III above, the Commission has adopted a carefully phased approach to
the entire Middlesex Canal project. The bulk of overall funding needs fall into the realm of capital spending.

1. Phase 2 will define Phase 3 Planning costs
2. Acceptance of 8,000 sq. ft. of Faulkner Mills space in 2000, as part of Phase 5
3. Possible acquisition of Faulkner Realty Trust open space property at Mill Pond $265,000 est.

VI. Funding Objectives and Funding Plan

A. Funding Objectives
Overall objective
: "Return the Middlesex Canal to public use." [This is consistent with the Mission of the Middlesex Canal Commission.]

Funding Objectives - these are where the funds will be spent:

B. Funding Plan
Operating Budget Capital Budget
bold indicates funding source already partially in place
Public funding sources: State Legislature
NMCOG (in-kind)
DEM/Mass. Historic Grants
ISTEA and TEA-21
federal funds through Mass. Highway
Private funding sources: Middlesex Canal Association
Foundation/grant support
Corporate donors in Canal towns
Billerica Section MCC

For more information, please contact:
The Middlesex Canal Commission

40 Church Street, Suite 200
Lowell, MA 01852
(978) 454-8021