Hidden away on Hemlock St. in Barclay Heights is JC Field, a small park with a swing set, playground climber with slides and basketball court. The park is popular with many families that live in the neighborhood. On most mornings, moms can be seen pushing strollers carrying their toddlers and preschoolers to this easily accessible spot to run, climb and socialize.
“My daughters and I are there at least once a week,” said Roxanne Ferber, mother of two-and-a-half-year-old twin girls. “It’s a great place to meet up for play dates because the park is the perfect size for little ones.”
This idyllic scene changes after school and in the evenings, however, when the park becomes a hangout spot for teens who frequently leave behind bottles, food wrappers and other trash.
A group of Barclay Heights moms with young children recently got tired of sidestepping broken glass and cigarette butts, and took their concerns to Greg Chorvas, town superintendant of parks and buildings. They sent him an email with a photo of the ground beneath a picnic table littered with dozens of cigarette butts. Chorvas sent a crew out very quickly to address the debris. Residents were happy with the results.
“I have to say I am really impressed,” said Ferber.
The field has a long history of litter and vandalism. In the early 1980s the park was home to tennis courts and a pavilion. The pavilion was burned down and the lights that lit the courts were repeatedly shot out. As a result, according to Chorvas, it was difficult to get funding to better the park.
JC Field is not the only park that has seen an abundance of litter recently. Fred Costello, Town Board member, said that he has been hearing complaints about the Glasco Mini Park this summer as well. Although smoking is illegal in all parks, this park, too, has seen its fair share of cigarette butts strewn on the ground and trashcans overflowing with personal household trash. Even Cantine Field has fallen prey to vandals this summer, with four-wheelers digging up the soccer field and graffiti discovered this week. But as the center of the town’s recreation program, and because groups that use it are required to pay a deposit refundable only if they clean up after themselves, Cantine is usually spic-and-span. Smaller parks scattered throughout the town are more likely to become littered if the community doesn’t get involved.
Costello admits that the Parks and Recreation budget is small, and said “we need community support to maintain what we have.” Chorvas agrees. He said there was a neighborhood watch in place in that area approximately 14 years ago that helped to keep these issues to a minimum, but the residents got “burnt out.” He attributes this exhaustion to witnessing a continued lack of respect for public spaces and law enforcement.
Some residents feel that same attitude is still present. Gloria Darmanin, a resident who brings her two-year-old to JC Field, said “until they stop the people that use the park for hanging out late at night, trash and cigarettes will be on the ground each morning. There is a bigger issue here.”