Turning a Vision into Reality

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Whether you’re watching rubber duckies bob down the Nashua River in the Amazing Duck Race, sipping a cold beer at the Brewers’ Festival, or just relaxing on a bench at Riverfront Park, you can’t miss the expansive mural above the opposite bank.

Painted on the back wall of Zeda Pizza, four huge fish playfully swim in clear blue water. To their left is the portrait of a woman, sporting a wide smile.

And there’s a message: “Be inspired. Envision what you’d like to see happen. Then commit.”

What’s that all about?

It’s about Marion Stoddart; a once-polluted river that, now clean,  is used for all kinds of recreation; and years of dedication .

nashua river muralIn the 1960s, Stoddart moved to Groton and discovered the Nashua River — a waterway that ran opaque shades of red, green and other colors, depending on the paper being produced by nearby mills on any given day. Appalled by the pollution, the stay-at-home mother of three decided to do something about it.

The rest, as they say, is history. Stoddart lobbied successfully for clean-water legislation at the state level, and went on to petition for millions of dollars of federal funding to carry on the battle against pollution. She led politicians on eye-opening canoe tours of the filthy river, created a non-profit organization, and enlisted the support of local residents and elected officials.

As hard as it would have been to envision when she began her mission, the Nashua River was designated as a Scenic and Wild River in 2012.

The Nashua River Watershed Association,  a nationally recognized model for watershed protection and management, continues to protect and enhance the river and its tributaries today.

In 2014, local artists created the huge mural facing the Nashua in honor of her work and the river’s transformation. “What I wanted to do,” she once said, “was to make a difference in the world — which is what we all want to do — and can do.”