In 1996, the Massachusetts Riverways Program established a special program focusing on Urban Rivers, championing the potential of these often overlooked waterways and promoting their value as natural resources in the midst of a built environment. It is our belief urban rivers can and should play a significant role in improving the livability of our cities while recognizing the inherent challenges of urban river restoration. Most importantly the program hopes to advance the public’s understanding of and enthusiasm for urban rivers. 

Urban Rivers has since been folded into the DER Restoration unit. Urban River Projects may now be nominated to become a DER Priority Project. If selected, DER can provide resources to help a community address the unique challenges and varied needs of their urban waterway to help plan and achieve an appropriate level of restoration and urban revitalization.


Current Urban River Priority Projects:

Hoosic River, North Adams

The Hoosic River and North Branch Hoosic flow through North Adams in massive concrete flood chutes built to protect the city from flooding. DER is working with the Hoosic River Revival, the city and many others on an effort to reconnect the city to its river, improve riverine habitat, and spur economic growth all while maintaining the existing level of flood protection. DER helped the city convene a community conversation to map out a vision for the rivers. An extensive assessment of revitalization options followed- positioning the city for a pilot restoration project.


Spicket River, Lawrence

The Spicket River flows through several neighborhoods in Lawrence and Methuen.

Spicket River CAD Design Sheet

 Efforts a century ago to straighten the river left the river susceptible to serious flooding, bank erosion and instability leaving the surrounding neighborhoods vulnerable to damage and disruption during severe storms. A natural resources assessment commissioned by DER laid the foundation for DER sponsored designs for four instream and bank restoration projects to complement a large greenway project along the Spicket River through the state’s Gateway Cities Program. 


North Nashua River, Fitchburg


North Nashua Flood Wall Before the Project
The North Nashua river rises in the western portion of Fitchburg, descending rapidly  and arcing through the heart of the city. Flood walls and old mills that once harnessed the river’s considerable power prevent access to the river through most of the city. DER worked with the city and consultants to develop a River Master Plan based on community input. A pilot project followed. DER commissioned river restoration designers were able to modify a flood wall at the downtown Riverfront Park to create dedicated access to the river while instream work improved habitat in this highly constrained site.
North Nashua Flood Wall After the Project North Nashua Flood Wall After the Project North Nashua Flood Wall After the Project