EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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September 14, 2013

Residents, city working together to keep new rest area clean, safe

HAVERHILL — A scenic rest area at the edge of the Merrimack River is getting some extra loving care, just as residents on that side of town promised. Since the city reopened the area on Route 110 near the Methuen line this summer, a group of volunteers have been maintaining it and keeping watch so that it doesn’t return to the kind of magnet for criminal activity that forced the city to lock the gates 15 years ago.

With autumn upon us, those volunteers are maintaining a daily presence by opening the gates in the morning and locking them at night, as well as dropping by during the day. They recently spruced it up with corn stalks and other seasonal decorations.

“It gives the area that fall look without being overwhelming,” said volunteer Dick LeBlond.

Now more improvements are planned for the area these volunteers have essentially adopted. They want to install solar-powered lighting while the city plans to install security cameras linked to police monitoring.

The rest area is set to close Oct. 1 and volunteers are hoping to get as much accomplished in the few weeks they have left.

“This is only our first year and maybe the closing date will be extended, depending on the weather,” LeBlond said.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he is working with police to have security cameras installed in the park by this fall or at the latest by next spring, in time for the reopening of the rest area. Although the area is commonly referred to as the Hannah Duston Rest Area, the mayor said it was never officially named that and that it’s now being referred to as the “Merrimack River Park,” or simply “River Park.”

“We also plan to put in cameras at Swasey Field and other parks,” Fiorentini said, adding that funding for cameras will come from the trust of a former resident, Elmo D’Allessandro. The money was given to the city under the condition that it be used exclusively for law enforcement.

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