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Widespread effort under way to take back Greenfield’s Hillside Park

Mayor William Martin said last fall that he would like to eventually hire several park rangers to patrol town parks, including Hillside Park, above, but because of budgetary constraints he will start with volunteers and see how it goes.
(Recorder file/Paul Franz)

Mayor William Martin said last fall that he would like to eventually hire several park rangers to patrol town parks, including Hillside Park, above, but because of budgetary constraints he will start with volunteers and see how it goes. (Recorder file/Paul Franz)

GREENFIELD — Though it has been called a “constant battle” by some, town officials and police, as well as residents living in the Hillside Park area are determined to take the park back from vandals and drug dealers by holding events and cleanups there and by bringing their children there to play as much as possible.

Since concern about the park was made public recently, police have boosted their visibility at the park with several visits a day.

Paul Raskevitz, the public works assistant field superintendent, said a crew spent time last week painting over graffiti that had been written or carved into picnic tables and onto the basketball court.

“It’s unfortunate, because it’s such a nice park,” said Raskevitz.

He said the town also had to take away trash cans that were destroyed. He said the DPW plans to replace them.

“There was a lot of hateful graffiti there,” said Raskevitz. “Vandals actually carved graffiti into the plastic cover on the picnic tables.”

Raskevitz said there was also graffiti spray painted on the basketball court and on a small building in the park.

“It’s all gone for now, but we just refinished the tables last winter and put them back out in May and they were a mess,” he said. “We covered them temporarily, but we’ll have to refinish them again this coming winter and put them out again next spring.”

He said trash has also been an issue in the park, because vandals have destroyed the trash cans and have left their trash on the ground.

Police have stepped up their monitoring of the park and the department’s downtown officer has been spending some time there each day.

Erin Donnally Drake, who lives near the park and is the director of student activities and involvement at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said she brought a group of about 50 students to Greenfield last week to help clean up some of its parks as part of Massachusetts Intact Day of Service.

“Groups went to Hillside, the swimming area, Poet’s Seat and Highland (Park),” said Donnally Drake. “The ones that worked on Hillside picked up the trash that was scattered throughout the park.”

Donnally Drake said she had heard there were problems in Hillside Park and thought it would be the perfect place for students to help out.

Margarett Betts, the West Street resident and School Committee member who has taken the lead in cleaning up Hillside Park is already working with the town to hold a Hillside Costume Party on Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. in the park.

Betts said children and adults will have the opportunity to wear their costume to the park and there will be activities.

She said it is a “take back our park” event, which will be held on Oct. 27 at 5 p.m., if there is rain.

Mayor William Martin, the town’s Public Safety Commission, the town’s Recreation Department and its commission, police and other emergency personnel, and many of the town’s residents have vowed to resolve the problem and reclaim the park for neighborhood children and other residents.

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