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March 31, 2013

Councilor shines light on Haverhill's largest park

Castle-themed boats, dog park, performing arts center among broad plan to improve 700-acre recreation area

HAVERHILL — It’s one of the region’s largest and busiest public recreational areas, seeing hundreds of visitors pass through it’s gated entrance every day in summer and well-used throughout the year.

But Winnekenni Park, a 700-acre property boasting miles of multi-use trails, a popular swimming pond and Haverhill’s famous Gothic castle on the hill, could be so much more, according to City Councilor Thomas Sullivan, a longtime member of the Winnekenni Foundation and one of several unofficial caretakers of the park off Route 110 near Kenoza Lake.

Sullivan, who lives across the street from the park, has developed a comprehensive plan for restoring and improving the park that he pitched to his council colleagues and Mayor James Fiorentini last week.

The 11-page plan runs the gamut from basic maintenance such as trimming tangled and overgrown trees and weeds near the main entrance and along the shores of the basin pond, to more imaginative ideas such as bringing castle-themed paddle boats to the basin or nearby Plug Pond, in the spirit of Boston Common’s swan boats.

Other more creative ideas include installing racquetball, badminton, volleyball and bocce ball courts near Plug Pond recreational area. The pond — also known as Lake Saltonstall — is only a 15-minute walk from one of several parking areas near the park’s entrance.

Sullivan’s plan also identifies a number of ideas for how to pay for improvements to the park, pond and castle, including state grants and a modest user fee — $5 per season for residents and $10 for others.

“I see cars in here with license plates from Alaska, Hawaii, Florida and California all the time,” Sullivan said. “It’s people who grow up around here who are back for weddings or funerals or whatever and come up here because they remember the park from when they were a kid. I don’t think they’d mind paying a few dollars to preserve it.”

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