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October 2, 2012

Editorial: Burnham's Field grant will need city's long-term followup

The word that the city of Gloucester has been awarded a $195,000 grant from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to boost a plan for upgrades to Burnham’s Field is certainly good news, and comes at a nearly ideal time on several counts.

But while moving forward with an overall $340,000 renovation project, fueled by both the DEP grant dollar and a federal Community Development Block Grant, city officials should also assure the field’s downtown neighbors and Gloucester residents as a whole that they will also take the obvious necessary follow-up steps to maintain and monitor the park’s condition in the future, so that it doesn’t lapse once again into its condition of today — or, even worse, where it stood two years ago before a community group at least launched a gardening project that brought focus and a sense of community ownership to at least a corner of the potential downtown gem.

That could mean carving out a Burnham’s Field oversight group under the wing of the city’s Open Space and Recreation Committee, with neighborhood involvement. It could also mean recognizing a community policing or neighborhood watch group, to make sure the improved park doesn’t fall victim to vandals and is safe for nighttime use.

But most of all, it should include a commitment by the city to set aside money within the Department of Public Works budget to protect this extensive and honorable investment in an important downtown facility that can and should, indeed, be a source of community pride. Sadly, it’s been a long time since that’s been the case. While the main softball field at the Burnham’s Street end of the park is home to the Gloucester High girls softball team and local adult softball leagues — and while the newly-renamed Patriots’ Peewee football programs practices and plays its games there — there are still far too many police calls regarding incidents of drunkenness in the park in late afternoon or at night, too many calls regarding drug syringes found in corners of the field and around its edges.

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