Not safe to play in the park
Hillside Park in Greenfield is suffering from vandalism and drug dealers. A few years ago, a $360,000 renovation on the park was completed, but now parents won’t even let their children play there.
Many swastikas, other hateful graffiti and obscenities are carved and drawn on a picnic table at Hillside Park in Greenfield. Neighbors report seeing drug transactions conducted in the park during the day.
Hillside park picnic table
Hillside park picnic table
Hillside park swastika
GREENFIELD — Three years ago, the town completed a $360,000 renovation of one of its most dilapidated parks, which borders Conway, Grove, West and Elm streets.
Today, neighbors of Hillside Park are complaining that they can’t bring their children to the park to play because too many drug deals are happening there, out in the open in many instances, where they and their children can see.
Margaret Betts, a Greenfield School Committee member who happens to live across the street from the park on West Street, went before Town Council as a concerned resident to complain that she has stopped bringing her 3-year-old son to the park.
Betts told councilors this week that there was a 16-year-old with a knife in the park on Aug. 7 and that police had to respond to the incident.
“The park is unusable by residents at this point,” said Betts. “It’s not reasonable to expect parents to bring their children there until circumstances improve.”
Betts said there’s a “culture” being created in the park and most of the neighbors she has talked with aren’t interested in going there anymore.
At the council meeting, Mayor William Martin said he will discuss the issue with public safety officials and will ask the town’s Public Safety Commission to look into the matter and figure out what to do about it.
Betts said the back fence, which abuts Conway Street, has an opening into the woods and people are traveling through the park to get into the woods.
“It’s sad that the park closest to our homes has to have that kind of activity going on,” said Betts, who suggested the town fix the fence so that people can’t use the park as a shortcut, and also suggested that surveillance cameras be installed.
Recreation Department Director Christy Moore is aware of the problem and has spoken with the town’s Recreation Commission to see how they can work with other town officials.
“I will be reaching out to police,” said Moore. “We need the public to call the police any time they see something that looks suspicious, and we need police presence there.”
Moore said the town invested a lot of resources in the park and she wants to see it used by the people who should be using it.
She said the more the public uses the park, the more those types of illegal activities will decrease, but she said she also understands people’s concerns about safety for themselves and their children.
“I want people to feel safe in our parks,” said Moore. “We need to take the park back.”
“This is definitely a situation that needs to be addressed and resolved, and it will be,” said Moore.
In July 2010, the town held an open house in the park, where dozens of children and their families attended to play on the new playground for the first time.