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Manchester mayor seeks to restrict use of park

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 20. 2014 10:23PM

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas said Bronstein Park has become a favorite for users of the synthetic drug spice, and he is working with city officials to see if its use can be restricted to high schoolers during the day.

The block-sized park is used by Central High School. Members of the school band start outdoor practice there next week, and the school’s gym classes use the park throughout the year.

Yet, adults who are not students usually occupy benches at the east side of the park.

“Do you know where most of the overdoses were and where most of the people were doing it?” Gatsas said. “We have to do everything in our power to ensure we protect children.”

Gatsas hopes for a vote from aldermen by Sept. 2, the day before school starts.

But an alderman said he is opposed to the idea of closing off the park. Alderman at-large Joe Kelly Levasseur said he’d rather see more police in the park.

“What do you think is going to happen if they shut down Bronstein Park?” Levasseur said. “They will just go somewhere else.”

Gatsas said he is working with city officials on what steps he has to take, and he wants to send the measure to aldermen for a quick approval. He said a telephone poll was a possibility.

Meanwhile, a city parks official said the city may already have the power to close the park during school hours. In the late 1960s, the city designated the park as part of Central High School in order for the school to meet accreditation standards, Don Pinard said.

As school property, it is closed to “unauthorized persons” from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days, under city ordinance, Pinard said. He said he recently looked up paperwork from the late 1960s related to the park transfer.

“Seeing the paper trail I’ve seen, it’s pretty clearly stated that it’s supposed to be their (Central High School’s) green space during the school day,” Pinard said.

He said Parks workers have recently had trouble at Bronstein. For example, park users don’t want to move when workers are cutting grass. Pinard called them “pretty confrontational.”

“I just don’t want my guys to get hurt,” he said.

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