Not just one solution

Human Rights Commission joins Hillside Park efforts

Recorder/Paul Franz
There is a gap in the fence in the northwest corner of Hillside Park in Greenfield. ONe suggestion was that the town take down the fence that surrounds the park, rather than patch it.

Recorder/Paul Franz There is a gap in the fence in the northwest corner of Hillside Park in Greenfield. ONe suggestion was that the town take down the fence that surrounds the park, rather than patch it.

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission has joined the effort to take back one of Greenfield’s parks.

Commission members said this week that they will work with town officials and boards, as well as neighbors of Hillside Park, which borders West, Conway, Grove and Elm streets, to take back the park from vandals and drug dealers.

Margaret Betts, the West Street resident who initiated the take-back, said things have gotten better in the park since residents began using it again and police have stepped up their patrolling of it each day.

“There isn’t going to be one solution,” said commission Chairman Lewis Metaxas.

Mayor William Martin said he is listening to everyone’s ideas and will be looking at ways he can help, as well as which ideas will work and which will not.

Everyone agreed that while Hillside Park is unique in that it is close enough to the downtown to be considered a “downtown park,” it is also hidden from the streets that border it by trees and fences, which makes it an easy mark for vandals.

Some of the suggestions for taking the park back include putting a dog or skate park there, planting community gardens and holding public events there.

Gary Longley, chairman of the town’s Public Safety Commission, said there has been a great exchange of ideas over the past two months, but agreed with Metaxas that there isn’t going to be just one solution.

In recent months, the town has removed hateful graffiti from the structures there and has learned that parents of young children have witnessed drug deals within and just outside the park.

“We’re doing as many checks as time permits each day,” said Greenfield provisional Police Chief Joseph Burge. “People have to keep calling us when they see something.”

Burge said police won’t always be able to get there in time to catch a drug deal happening, but if people keep calling with the same information and descriptions, it will help police investigate.

Town officials said the park is much safer now, because so much attention has been given it.

Commission members and about a half-dozen residents seemed receptive to Martin’s idea for the town to hire and train park rangers, who would patrol all of the town’s parks and report suspicious activity to police.

Also, what everyone was in agreement on, including Betts, was that residents should not “run away” from the park.

“We need community involvement,” said commission member Momodou Sarr. “The community has to stand up and say ‘no’ and be willing to participate in an action plan.”

Another suggestion was that the town take down the fence that surrounds the park, rather than patch it — Burge said it would be easier to patrol the park if officers didn’t have to jump a fence to chase a suspect.

Town officials said discussions about Hillside Park will continue, including whether neighbors of the park will form a neighborhood watch.

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