HAVERHILL — The city has come up with a plan to address neighbors' complaints about excessive noise and profanity during basketball games at the 12th Avenue Playground.
The plan includes offering open gym basketball in the evening at Nettle and Whittier middle schools, building a fence on the 11th Avenue side of the park to muffle noise, and replacing the current basketball hoops, poles and backboards to eliminate the annoying "clank" of balls hitting the rim. The sound reverberates throughout the neighborhood, residents said.
Neighbors complained to the City Council at its Oct. 1 meeting that noise from basketball games at the park this summer was making life miserable. Eight neighbors asked the council to crack down on noise and profanity in the park, and to consider turning the newly renovated basketball court there into a community garden or a paved area for children to ride bikes.
"Residents talked about the noise and about yelling and screaming echoing throughout the neighborhood," said Councilor William Macek, who brought the issue before the council after receiving a complaint from a neighbor. "We'd like to have a plan that would make the neighbors happy and also provide people with a place to play basketball.
"It's kind of a summer problem, but it could happen anytime the weather is good," Macek said.
Tonight, the council will receive recommendations from Vincent Ouellette, director of parks and recreation for the city, about what the city can do to improve the quality of life for neighbors of the playground.
Ouellette said the park’s proximity to homes and its location in the middle of the densely-populated neighborhood have contributed to problems. He said Mayor James Fiorentini asked him to look into the matter and come up with recommendations.
Ouellette said he spoke to some of teenagers and adults who play basketball at the playground and told them about the plan to open the two school gyms during the school year.
"I asked if the'yd be interested and they said they'd love it," he said. "They just want to play ball."
Ouellette said players would be required to register with the Recreation Department, which will also supervise games at the schools. He said Nettle's gym would be open Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m., and Whittier's gym would be open Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Ouellette said the city had these kinds of open gym times in the past, but then there was a decline in the popularity of basketball.
"We're bringing the concept back," Ouellette said.
Neighbors complained about the sound basketballs made when they hit the rims at the park, so Ouellette will suggest replacing the hoops with units that are much quieter.
"The rims we've put in other parks don't make any discernible noise at all," he said.
Another piece of the plan is to speed up renovations to nearby Portland Street Playground, so residents of that neighborhood have another basketball court to play on instead of the 12th Avenue Playground, where neighbors said crowds of 30 or more people were gathering to play the game this summer.