"Mountains to Main Street" in Lawrence



In late August, after most of Groundwork Lawrence’s summer youth programming had wrapped up, our own DOI/VISTA AmeriCorps Member, Eric Lundquist, wrapped up his own summer project by hanging up a beautiful banner along a Groundwork office wall. It’s only a temporary home, and it’s going to see some travel in the future. This is the culmination of a summer’s long journey with an intrepid group of Lawrence youth who explored their history, the national park system, and their identities as civic leaders as a part of the National Park Service’s Mountains to Mainstreet program.

Mountains To Mainstreet is an initiative from NPS designed to create ambassadors to the National Parks System that will bring a diversity of users into the parks by more honestly addressing their needs. Eric was invited to a trip to the Grand Tetons National Park to join workshops involving community members from all over the country. The workshop gave the attendees tools to formulate a project that will engage members of their community in a trip to a National Park, and Eric was thrilled to bring his plan back to Lawrence at the start of summer.












Eric’s plan was to start with a group of Lawrence youth and bring them to the closest national state park - Lowell National Historical Park. There, they explored the campus’ offerings and delved into their own heritages as descendants of immigrants and as residents of a mill city. The youth had the opportunity to take a boat ride through the canal ways of Lowell, where much of the old industrial infrastructure has been maintained at working condition. Afterward, they toured the Mill Girls exhibit, where they discovered links to the mill cities and early feminist movements in the United States. The young Lawrencians took a few hours to reflect the diversity of the immigrant worker communities and the changing standards of the culture surrounding gender and liberty.

They met up a week later, in their own City of Lawrence. The youth walked down the North Canal, which unfortunately has not been as maintained as in Lowell, exploring Lawrence's own historic Mill District, finding their way to the Lawrence Heritage State Park Museum. As more youth joined on the journey, one participant took it upon herself to act as leader and docent, explaining to her new peers what she had learned about empowerment through history. It was a proud moment that served as a reminder that our next great leaders are already among us somewhere. They finished their Lawrence explorations with more reflection about public history and heritage.

Their final meeting was a pleasant day in August at Campagnone Common. The Lawrence Arts House Crew, and their friends from the Las Pirañas Crew, came out to help our youth channel their experience into a beautiful and meaningful work of art. The predominant symbols our youth chose were the butterfly, to represent migration and beauty, and a rose, to symbolize Lawrence history and worker’s rights. At the end of the day, they had made something to be proud of, but certainly not for the last time. Rather than erect a stationary monument, the team chose a moveable banner, which will be displayed at events such as the Bread and Roses Festival.















Eric thanks the National Park Service, Lawrence Arts House, the Las Pirañas Crew and most of all our amazing youth of Lawrence!


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