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Edgewood Park “Take-Back” Begins
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 2, 2013 11:07 am
Edgewood Park’s natural splendor helped draw Juliet Avelin’s family to leave Vermont’s green mountains and relocate in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. Then the news of an assault made her family start avoiding the park.
On Tuesday, she and her neighbors began the process of taking the park back.
Avelin was one of several dozen Edgewood Park neighbors who turned out Tuesday evening for an “Organizing Rally to help TAKE BACK THE PARK,” held at Edgewood School.
The event marked a re-booting of the Friends of Edgewood Park (FOEP) group, which unveiled a new organizational structure designed to help make the park more safe, welcoming, and fun.
The meeting was held partly in response to several incidents this summer, in which groups of teens on bikes attacked joggers.
“The bigger problem is perception,” said FOEP’s Jon Miller, who greeted people by the door to the Edgewood School’s cafeteria. The park is “actually fairly safe,” he said. But if people think it’s dangerous, they won’t go there, and then it will become dangerous, he said.
“We need to take back the perception of the park,” FOEP president Willie Hoffman announced from the cafeteria stage. People see it as unsafe and “dodgy,” but it’s in fact a “rare treasure of natural beauty and cultural diversity” and one of the safest areas in the city, he said.
Hoffman outlined FOEP’s new structure, centered on the goal of bringing more people to the park. Toward that end, FOEP is creating six “park teams” to focus on safety, recreation, infrastructure, grounds, preservation, program and events. Four “friends teams” will support the work of park teams by focusing on communications, fundraising, membership, and metrics.
Hoffman said the new structure is designed to help people find an entry point into getting involved, based on where their interests lie. Instead of asking people to “join generally,” FOEP 2.0 asks people to plug into the subgroup that most excites them.
Avelin said she moved to Westville in June, after taking a job as the new arts integration coordinator at Edgewood School. She said she takes her 5-year-old son to the skate park to ride his bike. “But I’m very concerned” by the trash there and the profanity scrawled on the park.
“This park was a big draw” when her family moved from Putney, Vermont, Avelin said. Her husband use to commute by bike through Edgewood Park. He changed his route after cyclists were attacked, she said. “Which is a bummer.”
Miller said FOEP has been working to make the park more inviting by picking up litter and cleaning up graffiti.
FOEP’s Jessica Feinleib said the friends group hired eight local teens through the city’s Youth@Work program this summer. They planted about 20 trees, weeded beds, and picked up trash.
The friends are also working on installing a water fountain near the gazebo, basketball courts and tennis courts near the corner of Whalley and West Rock avenues, Feinleib said. The parks department has agreed to pay for $10,000 of the cost. The Regional Water Authority will pay for the $7,500 hook-up. But the project still needs about $7,000 more. Feinleib said the friends are hoping raise that money from the U.S. Tennis Association.
Billy Bromage (pictured), who attended the meeting with his 6-month-old daughter Miriam, noted a couple of divisions in the park that could pose problems—or opportunities.
One is between the east and west sides of the park. A typical summer weekend will find a buzz of activity on the west side: the farmers market, people playing tennis and basketball, skateboarders in the skate park. A different set of people on the east side will be playing at the playground and sundial there. The middle of the park is often empty, a gulf between two different populations, Bromage said.
Bromage said people on the west side of the park tend to be more involved in FOEP. He suggested setting a “park-wide agenda,” to get people on all sides of the park more involved.
The second division is between Edgewood Park and West River Park, just to the south. Bromage said he’d like to see more connections between the two parks, “de-siloing” the work in each park and “coalescing” around a shared effort.
“I would like to see the two parks brought together,” agreed John Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said he walks in Edgewood every day with his dog. He proposed to his wife near the duck pond, and married her in the meadow near the dog run.
The two parks complement each other, he said: Edgewood is “sculpted” and West River is more wild.
Tags: Friends of Edgewood Park
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Can anyone tell me where the dog run is? That’s something I would definitely utilize.
Mary S- The dog run is adjacent to the skate park (just past the skate park if you are coming in from the West Rock Avenue entrance). It is set back a bit from the path so you’ll just have to look for the fenced area.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 2, 2013 2:31pm
The dog run is located between the Skate Park, West River, Center Pond, and the pathway.
This park is a treasure and is well used by a variety of people and activities, but the dog park is neglected and uninviting. It is not easily accessible, so it is not used much.
Relocating it to a more visible location would generate more visitors and use.
Hats off to the people fighting for this precious and beautiful resource!
so you just moved to westville a few months ago from wherever else and already you wanna take something back.
im getting sick of people, usually white men who decide to move to a city so fractured by segregation, criminalization and poverty as new haven and then say they are going to TAKE IT BACK; they’ve got all the solutions.
this reminds me to TAKE BACK new haven, which is made up primarily of white male candidates. Raymond Wallace couldn’t stick with them because he realized he wasn’t going to be able to improve his community (the Hill) by working through them.
my point is: yes, we all deserve a safe, functioning park, safe streets, etc. but some people are raised to feel entitled to these things, whereas many others (read: poor people/people of color) are raised to feel their needs aren’t important and they arent entitled to the same type of safety. this is why TAKE-BACK edgewood, TAKE BACK NEW HAVEN, OCCUPY new haven will never develop significant roots in new havens poor and working class neighborhoods, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
MariaN, I share your frustration at the persistent significant issues in New Haven: poverty, joblessness and crime - all of which everyone knows are related.
But don’t take your frustration out on those who seek to make a difference where they can.
Look to the politicians who allow the inequities to exist because they lack the spine to take on the wealthy non-profits that do NOT pay their fair share of taxes, but who DO set the wages for the workers.
The tax system makes you and me subsidize these wealthy non-profits, but our elected leaders simply bow and scrape and beg for scraps.
Now that’s something to be angry about!
Love it. The park is safe….but people are afraid to go there, which makes it not safe. So, it is or it isn’t safe?
And its “our” fault its not safe because of what I don’t do there - not unsafe because of the litterbugs, drug attics, punk teens, muggers, and guys drinking beers on benches?
Teens have been assaulting people in the park for years and years, but its the fault of New Haven’s good citizens that the park is/isn’t safe. Classic.
As they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming. There will be naturally less criminals hangin around the park and it will be much safer.
The dog park is a bit of a let down. It’s a great place for my dog to run off-leash, but if I actually want him to play with other dogs, I go to the Union Street Dog Park in Wooster Square. It seems a little silly to drive to a dog park when there’s one walking distance. It would be nice if there was a move to fix it up, as there was in Wooster Square.
More people on the streets and in the parks makes everyone safer because there are more witnesses, potential allies.
I’d like to see the Police pay more attention to the less headline grabbing crimes like bike theft (“epidemic” since 1995!), cell phone theft and old fashioned muggings.
Catch them at that level and maybe prevent their climb up the career ladder to shootings.
Great Job by Willie and the Take Back the Park Group. The park is in much better shape since Friends of Edgewood park became involved. Thank you!!!
@MariaN - People like you Sit Back and do nothing and try to Get Back by turning a good cause into a racial issue. You should look at what this group did last summer. The ‘white’ people you referred to raised money and hired inner-city kids (mostly black) to work in the park during summer break.
Basically, we need get people who _want_ to use the park together with those that _do_ use the park to increase safety. FOEP is reorganizing to activate motivated parties, in order to make more of this happen.
We recognize that safety and recreation improve when we can use the main road in Edgewood Park as an active connection between the village and the West River neighborhood, etc. That’s what we’re trying to emphasize at Friends of Edgewood Park. That has been the case for quite a while.
Edgewood Park sees people from all over the city using the tennis and basketball courts, the skate park and the playground. Friends, Parks, and key stakeholders from those featured sites focused on improving those to keep them attractive. Those areas are the safest.
The path is next. FOEP has maintained and beautified the path in the middle as a ‘if we maintain it they will come’ strategy. And certainly the opposite is true. Broken equipment and trash don’t encourage use.
We need new efforts to create and/or nurture groups who will occupy (yeah, sorry) the no-man’s land to bring us to the next level of safety and fun. The bulk of the effort shouldn’t cost much. It costs nothing to have a consistent launch time for a walking group, etc.
Of course, if the Coogan building is fixed and utilized properly this will help a lot too.
I don’t know much of the park, i’ve only been in parts of it, but when i was there recently it felt overwhelmingly dark and closed in. Because it’s encapsulated by neighborhoods and contained by roads on all sides it’s not really a forest park per say like east rock, It feels like it could benefit from being thinned out so you can see further around when in it.
its unfortunate that people get assaulted anywhere in the world and I am sorry it becomes an argument about race and class. all parks in new haven are beautiful and I am glad they exist and hope they always do. I do not see segregation in the two sides of the park. on farmers market days I recall several races visiting, and the tennis courts and basketball courts are usually mixed as is the skate park. who cares who is where and who is doing what? as long as its being utilized for enjoyment and not being trashed. being white, and taking a risk calling the farmers market a more white event, I hope anyone would attend and feel comfortable and vice versa. i felt completely comfortable anywhere in the park. obviously no one wants to be abused while trying to enjoy the day. its 2013 and people are still ridiculous. god knows exactly who may have caused any assaults. lets pray he takes care of it and makes a kind, nature-appreciating world for us all. use the park to enjoy it and never hurt others. how simple.
Ali and Jonathan, thanks for the info- I’ve lived in Westville 3 years and have hardly set foot in the Park until this week. I brought my dogs to the run 3x this week, and only once was there another dog there. Too bad, b/c I thought it felt very safe- it’s enclosed (of course) in a wide open space; you can see anyone coming a mile away, and you can easily see the skate park (there was always people using that). Additionally, we walked a good way down the main path and felt safe and saw very little litter.
I’m going to tell my neighbors about the dog park and try to get more people going. I’d be a part of any effort to raise its profile or improve it.
The Parks Department should step up to the plate here too. Even in East Rock Park, the bathrooms are never never never open, even on a Saturday in the summer. The fact that no one comes and opens them in the morning and closes them at night, means that there are two less sets of eyes seeing what is going on in the park. Is our city really so poor that we cannot afford to have functioning restrooms in city parks?