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'Take the parks back,' Manchester administrator says

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 13. 2018 11:26PM

MANCHESTER — The images appear in Don Pinard’s inbox almost daily.

Graffiti. Piles of trash. Broken beer bottles. Human waste. All left behind in the city’s public parks “almost nightly, says Pinard, the city’s Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries.

“People who want to use the parks for their intended purpose are afraid to do so,” said Pinard. “I have no problem with people using the parks who don’t litter, don’t use drugs, and don’t vandalize. But when my attendant says he saw a woman who was sleeping in the bushes come out, relieve herself then go back to bed like it’s nothing ... that’s a problem.

“We need to take the parks back.”

Pinard will go before the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic today at 5 p.m. at City Hall to plead his case for increased penalties for violating city ordinances he says are in place to protect the city’s green spaces. But he said police find them difficult to enforce because they don’t “have any teeth.”

“The penalty for violating the ordinance is $10,” said Pinard. “So they write them up for $10, and then they ignore it. Typically that would affect someone when they go to register a car, but if they aren’t doing that, what do they care about a $10 fine?”

Current ordinances (96.04) say parks are closed to the public “every day of the year” from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., excluding events like fireworks displays. They also prohibit disposal of refuse and trash in the parks, building fires or consumption of alcohol.

Pinard said the area he is most concerned with is the skate park at Sheehan-Basquil Park, off Maple and Auburn streets. The skate park is adjacent to Hunt Pool.

“The skate park is currently unable to be used in the manner in which it was intended due to the current element who have claimed the park,” said Pinard.

According to Pinard, the park is a haven for “illegal activity, violent and overall disruptive behavior.”

“There is a daily stream of trash and broken beer bottles, some of which are on the pool deck and in the pool,” said Pinard. “We have an attendant at the pool. Every day he cleans up all the trash, and the next morning it’s back again. It’s an everyday occurrence.”

He also said there have been reports of people “flashing guns” in broad daylight.

“We have a group, Swim NH, that comes in and gives swim lessons to our Fun in the Sun campers twice a week,” said Pinard. “They asked us to get a security guard to be there when they are at the pool.”

Pinard said almost nightly during warm weather, individuals cut holes in the Hunt Pool security fence to get in for some “night swimming.”

“My biggest fear is we’re going to find a body in the pool some morning,” said Pinard. “We fix the hole, they cut open another one.”

Pinard said his department is working with Manchester police to develop possible solutions. He said police have recently placed a large live-feed camera on Lincoln Street and have asked him about the possibility of installing motion-sensor lighting and a camera at the skate park. Pinard estimates the cost of installing a camera to be around $6,000.

“I don’t have those funds in my budget,” he said.

Pinard said he has spoken with City Solicitor Emily Rice about what can be done to give the penalties for violating parks-related ordinances “more teeth,” though he doesn’t have a proposal yet.

“I don’t have the answers,” said Pinard. “But we have to do something.”

Pinard's report can be viewed below:

Public Safety Manchester Local and County Government

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