Friday, June 20, 2008

Problems in Donovan Park

Over the last eight months or so, residents of the North End, and YMCA employees have noticed problems at Donovan Park in the North End. In addition to being a public park run by the Middletown Parks and Recreation department, Donovan Park also serves as the playground for Macdonough Elementary School and a site for after-school and summer kids programming. While many of the families in the North End use the park well, there are a handful of people that are abusing the park and making it difficult for others to enjoy the space.

On Wednesday, June 18th, North End leaders met in the Macdonough School Cafeteria with officials from the Park and Rec department, the Middletown Police Department, the YMCA and the Board of Ed। to find a solution. In the end, short and long term goals were agreed upon by all who attended. Starting right now, Park and Rec and the Board of Ed are pursuing deeding the playground and basketball court area over to the Board of Ed so that officials from Macdonough and its affiliated after-school programs would have the authority to control the uses of the space while they are operating. Neighborhood residents in attendance agreed that this was the best first step with the caveat that this change not exclude residents from continuing to use the park for recreational activities, since it is the last remaining playground in the North End.

It was agreed that there would be a goal to reallocate the oversight of space from city to Board of Ed by September. Councilman Joe Bibisi, who attended the meeting, will bring the proposed change to the Common Council for approval following a formalized agreement to assume responsibility for a portion of the playground by the Board of Education.

Park and Rec is also going to look into lighting the space better to discourage illegal activities that are occurring after dark. All were in agreement that this problem is shared between the city, the police department and the community, but it is the residents of the North End suffer most. Residents agreed to begin spending more time there to bring positive activities to the park and discourage problems.

Most of the reported problems are occurring on the basketball courts, so many of the possible solutions are focused on that area. One longer-term option includes finding funding for a PAL, or Police Athletic League, that would encourage mentoring and relationship-building between youth and the police department. Another possibility is some kind of program that engages kids on the basketball court in organized intramural games. John Milardo from Park and Rec will pursue the investigation of ordinance change to allow more signage to added that posts park rules. He will pursue this through the Park and Rec Commission. If ordinance change is recommended it must then go to the Common Council for approval. It was suggested that all parks have such signage and that there be research into models used in other cities.

For now, residents hope that people will use the park often। Spend time there throwing a frisbee, playing basketball or climbing on the play scape। Bring your families to the park, and don't be afraid to call the police if you do witness illegal activity. We all have to be responsible for the space, like it or not. If we as a community aren't interested, no one else will be either.

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