hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

August 30, 2012

Editorial: A childish dipute over a children's playground

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — The opening of a small children’s playground on the Bradford side of the Merrimack River has resulted in a childish display.

The kids aren’t the ones who are acting childish, however.

Washington Landing Park opened about a month ago on city land next to the Crescent Yacht Club and a public boat ramp. The park is so named because it is on or near the spot where President George Washington landed after crossing the Merrimack after a visit to Haverhill in 1789.

The park’s yacht club neighbors aren’t happy. In the past, they launched their boats at the ramp, then parked their cars and boat trailers on the spot now occupied by bright blue, fish-themed playground equipment.

“They just decided that they would throw the playground there,” club member Dave Goodwin told reporter Alex Lippa (See story on page 1). “There isn’t any room for it where it is. For people who come to use their boats, there is now nowhere to park their trailers. If you launch your boat, you then have to drive your car away because there isn’t anywhere to park.”

But Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff, David Van Dam, flatly denied the claim.

“There’s no parking issue,’’ he told our reporter. “There is room for trailers.”

Van Dam said the 40-by-80-foot park took up “only a little bit of the area” and “didn’t cut into the storage area” for boat trailers.

But boaters say there is a problem, and it’s clear the playground has squeezed the parking area, caused some inconveniences for the boaters.

In any case, there are rumblings that the unhappy yacht club members will stop helping maintain the boat ramp as they’ve done up to now.

Heavy rains cause washouts that erode the boat ramp. Club members pitched in to do repairs in the past and also mowed the grass around the ramp.

“There is no incentive to do that anymore,” Goodwin said. “It’s a Catch 22. If we didn’t maintain that area in the first place, I don’t even know if the city would have put the park there.”

The city says a state grant of $10,000 will pay to shore up the ramp and improve drainage so heavy rain doesn’t cause washouts. But as Van Dam said, the repairs won’t last forever.

It’s in the interests of both the city and the yacht club to be good neighbors; they shouldn’t let the unpleasantness fester.

So perhaps it’s time that both sides in the Washington Landing dispute sit down for what another president — Barack Obama — would call an “adult conversation” about ways to make the situation better.