Mayor Ted Gatsas will enforce a city ordinance restricting the public from Bronstein Park during school hours.
“No Trespassing” signs were erected on lamp posts around the perimeter of the park on Aug. 22.
The decision by Gatsas comes one week after city emergency crews responded to more than 50 medical calls over a two-day period, many included people transported from city parks, including Bronstein, who had ingested a synthetic substance sold over the counter at local convenience stores, known as spice.
In the aftermath of the overdoses, Gatsas shut down three local stores suspected of selling the product, and Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency over the public health threat caused by the product in Manchester, and also in Concord.
Under City Ordinance 130.40, trespassing is prohibited on “school buildings, including appurtenant buildings, or public school grounds, including parking lots and recreational or athletic areas” during school hours, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The ordinance, passed in 1979, includes Bronstein Park, based on the city solicitor’s interpretation of the history of the property, which is located across the street from Central High School.
In a memo sent Aug. 21 by Gatsas to the Board of Alderman and Board of School Committee, Gatsas says:
I have reviewed the minutes and subsequent actions of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen regarding the designation as Bronstein Park as a physical education facility for Central High School. Between 1969 and 1970, the various committee meetings were held to discuss the necessary conversion of the park in order to continue state building aid related to Central High School. Ultimately the board voted unanimously to appropriate $45,000 on November 10, 1970 for the purpose of financing construction costs of physical education facilities at Bronstein Park. I believe based on this vote that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have already designated this park as a school facility for the purposes of the physical education of Central students and no further action would be necessary to erect the signage necessary to properly identify the grounds as such.
According to the city’s Athletic Director, Christopher Donovan, the park is primarily used by the school for students during school hours for some phys ed courses that involve walking around the park, and will be used in the coming week for band camp.
“Some students will use the park informally to throw a ball around, but most of our teams utilize the city’s three athletic facilities, Gill Stadium, Livingston Park and Padden Field,” Donovan said.
Gatsas said he has the authority to enforce the ordinance, and it did not require a vote by the Board of Aldermen, or a public hearing.
Alderman Joyce Craig said she told Gatsas she had some concerns about posting the public park as “off limits” to the public.
“The mayor did call me about it, and I articulated that I have mixed feelings about what he’s doing. I’ve seen behavior there, seen ad smelled people smoking pot. I wish we’d first taken the step of increased police presence. Putting signs up doesn’t fix the situation,” Craig said. “I think posting signs will encourage people who normally congregate there to go someplace else. I would rather stop illegal behavior.”
Craig said she also would like to know how the ban would affect other community groups that use the park, including St. Casimir students, who also use the park during school hours.
She said although a similar restriction is in place at Sheridan-Emmett Park, across from Beech Street School, she would like more discussion about how this ordinance will be enforced at Bronstein.
On Friday Jack McLean was sitting on a bench at the park along Hanover Street, sipping iced coffee. It’s part of his daily routine to come by and relax after work at the Radisson, where he works second shift.
“I live down the street, and when I’m here I just like to relax and observe the fields and the people and the neighborhood. I’ve never had any problems with anybody here,” he said.
He questions Gatsas’ decision to prohibit the public from a public park – at least not without a clear reason.
“I know what happened here last week, but I think he’s gone too far,” McLean said. “Does it mean I can’t sit on a bench here at the edge of the park anymore? I’d like to know.”
Watch the full video interview with Jack McLean below.