hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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July 25, 2013

It's time for city to be vigilant over park

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

Maybe it also takes a village to resurrect an old park from its weeds and debris — and a reputation for criminal activity.

In 1998, the city closed the Hannah Duston rest stop park on Route 110 near the Methuen line, and for good reason.

The park, nestled in a scenic spot along the Merrimack River, had pockets where criminals would gather — drug dealers and thugs, even people participating in public sexual activities.

Complaints came from responsible people trying to use the park. Haverhill lost control of the situation. There were too many higher priorities for police, so the park was closed, blocked off from public use. The neighborhood and the city had lost a popular and scenic location to the criminal element, and the park was all but forgotten.

The park has historical significance. It is named for Colonial figure Hannah Duston because it is believed to be the spot there she brought her canoe aground from the river after escaping from a band of Native American Indians who raided her village, killing several people and capturing her and others.

Haverhill had lost more than a place where locals could enjoy the scenery and perhaps a picnic lunch. It had lost the ability to keep close touch with a significant location in the community’s history.

Now, the city is reopening the park. (See story, Page 1.) Mayor James Fiorentini said it is part of his plan to invest more effort into Haverhill’s parks and playgrounds. The city will enforce a curfew and have other rules, but local police can’t do it alone.

That’s where the “village’’ comes in, otherwise known as the surrounding Bradley’s Brook neighborhood.

The mayor said he has spoken to several neighbors who are willing to be the city’s eyes and ears at the park. They will frequent that area along the river, walking their dogs, spending time with their families and fellow neighbors, serving notice that the park is for responsible people like them, not for law breakers.

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