HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini said he is considering a request from City Council and neighbors of Merrimack River Park on Route 110 to open the full stretch of the picturesque property this summer.
However, Fiorentini said he is undecided and has concerns about the cost and the possible return of crime to the park.
The park, formerly know as Hannah Duston Rest Area, is sandwiched between Route 110 and the Merrimack River near the Methuen line. It was closed around 1998 because it became a place for criminal activity, including partying, drug use and sexual liaisons.
The mayor reopened half the park last summer and agreed to keep it open this year from April 1 to Oct. 1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Last year’s opening was a big success, with neighbors keeping the park clean and planting flowers, watching for trouble-makers, and opening the gate in the morning and closing it at night.
Fiorentini said he is waiting for a recommendation from police Chief Alan DeNaro and Public Works Director Michael Stankovich before deciding on the request to open the whole park. The mayor said there would be additional costs for the city to open the entire property, including hiring a company to mow a large section of grass and installing video cameras to monitor the area.
“I am quite proud of my record of improving parks and playgrounds and opening this park for the first time in 20 years,” Fiorentini said. “I understand the request and it is a reasonable one. I also understand the council’s request, made the very same evening (March 18) to put more money into police and add more police officers. ...In the end the budget has to balance and the numbers have to add up. I cannot spend what I do not have.
“I will certainly take this request under consideration,” he said. “I would like absolutely nothing better than to be able to say that I opened more of this park, but until I look at everything, I just cannot commit to this.”