hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 7, 2013

Safe place for inner-city kids

Neighbors, volunteers will rebuild Portland Street playground

(Continued)

“Many of the residents there are Spanish and some of them said they go up to the Portland Street playground and play,” Ortiz said. “When I visited the playground, there was a group of teenagers playing basketball on the cracked surface and one of them was injured. If you run and you aren’t looking down you can trip on a crack and hurt yourself. I told the mayor what condition it was in and how it wasn’t safe.”

Ortiz has since been working with the city and Team Haverhill on plans for renovating the playground.

“We surveyed neighbors from November to December, with volunteers from the Spanish community and Team Haverhill knocking on the doors of more than 70 homes,” Ortiz said. “We asked questions such as if they know about the park and if they let their children play there. Many said no because of the condition, the lack of security and people hanging around.

“Our dream is to fix the playground and install security cameras so people in the neighborhood can enjoy it,” Ortiz said. “I have 32 neighbors who said they would volunteer to help rebuild the playground. They are so happy to be involved to have a playground that is safe and they can go to. Also they said they would be part of a neighborhood watch group to protect the area and report problems to the city.”

Mann said Team Haverhill will be in charge of the project and a team of volunteers will work with neighbors on alternate designs. During the same time period, Team Haverhill will raise money in a variety of ways and also seek grant money.

“We also welcome business sponsors and individual donors who would like to contribute to the project,” Mann said. “It’s in a neighborhood that very much needs a safe place for youngsters to enjoy outdoor activities that don’t cost money.”

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