Nothing says "No one cares" or "Stay away" for a city quite like a poorly maintained landscape. Unfortunately, that is the message coming from several Hartford — or Hartford-owned — properties.
The Courant's Steve Goode recently reported that Batterson Park, owned by Hartford but mostly located in Farmington, was a garbage-strewn mess.
The article also noted that Old North Cemetery on North Main Street was overgrown with tall grass, weeds and poison ivy; a walking trail in Goodwin Park was full of downed tree branches; a traffic island on Maple Avenue near the park was covered with tall weeds; thick grass obscured a granite marker at a Korean War memorial on New Britain Avenue; Pope Park was vandalized by garbage and graffiti; and graffiti marred the majestic statue of Samuel Colt at the entrance to Colt Park.
It would be wonderful if residents understood that they were spoiling their own property when they littered or spray-painted in public places. Perhaps if schoolchildren learned about Sam Colt or Col. Albert Pope, they would be more respectful of their legacies.
But until that blessed day, more must be done to keep these properties clean. Our sense if that the Hartford public works department is doing the best it can, but, having lost 40 percent of its workers in the past decade, cannot keep up with the demands.
Are there other resources that can be brought to bear?
A reader e-mailed The Courant to suggest that community court workers be used on some of these projects. Is there a veterans' organization that might take on the maintenance of some of the soldier memorials? A neighborhood group that might maintain the Maple Avenue circle?
The best-kept parks are those with support organizations such as the Friends of Elizabeth Park. Perhaps the strong friends organizations can help the groups at other parks. Can a Farmington town or community agency partner with Hartford on Batterson Park (where the city has recently made some clean-up efforts)?
There is a restoration project in the works for Old North Cemetery, sponsored by the city and the Clay Hill Improvement Association, and that is encouraging. The cemetery is the final resting place of, among other well-known folk, Frederick Law Olmsted, the "Father of Landscape Architecture." A man who brought so much beauty to the world deserves a pleasant surrounding.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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