By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — City Council is turning its attention to another park.
Councilors have been developing recommendations for improving Winnekenni Park for the last month, since Councilor Thomas Sullivan unveiled his broad plan for changes at the 700-acre recreation area off Route 110.
Now they want Mayor James Fiorentini to clean up Riverside Park on Lincoln Avenue and update them on his plan for finishing repairs and renovations to Haverhill Stadium in the park.
Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said wooded areas around the park are strewn with trash, fallen trees and overgrown weeds. She suggested the mayor request a work release crew from the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence to clean and clear the area.
“I walk my dog there everyday and it’s beautiful and well used,” Daly O’Brien said of the park. “But we need to do a better job taking care of it.”
Daly O’Brien also wants the city to install dog-walking stations in the park that would include plastic bags for dog waste and barrels for disposing of the bags — an idea backed by several of her colleagues.
“Signs that warn people of fines for not cleaning up after their dogs are not enough,” she said. “We should do more to take care of these beautiful places in Haverhill.”
Councilor William Ryan said the city should provide dog-waste bags at all parks where dog walking is prevalent.
“It doesn’t cost a great deal of money for these plastic bags and a barrel and then have it serviced,” Ryan said.
Councilor John Michitson said there’s growing unrest in the community about the lack of recent progress in making long-overdue repairs to Haverhill Stadium, now known as Trinity EMS Stadium.
“There’s been a lack of progress since the turf went in two years ago,” Michitson said. “And no one on the Stadium Commission seems to know who is in charge of putting together a plan for the future of the stadium.”
Ryan, the council’s representative on the Stadium Commission, said he would invite Athletic Director Tom O’Brien, chairman of the commission, to an upcoming meeting to brief councilors on plans for the stadium.
“We are very dependent on the state budget for our funding stream,” Ryan said of the Stadium Commission. “And everything we do has to go through the mayor. We have a wish list, but the work that needs to be done over there is in the millions of dollars. We don’t want to put the mayor in a tough spot and start advocating for things the city can’t afford.”
Since 2006, the state has provided about $3 million to improve the 76-year-old stadium, including $1.2 million to replace the grass field with artificial turf two years ago. Before that, state money was used to fix structural problems and repair bleachers and sections of the crumbling grandstand.
Among the most expensive work that still needs to be done — the grandstand renovation needs to be finished, new lights need to be installed and repairs need to be completed to the brick wall on the site, according to Ryan.
Councilor Thomas Sullivan reported that Fiorentini plans to apply for state Gateways Cities money for improvements at Riverside Park. Sullivan also said the mayor is planning to hire a part-time maintenance worker this summer to clean rest-rooms at city parks.