When a sweltering, soggy heat wave hit Hartford a century ago, before the age of air conditioning, many families from the East Side tenements would take refuge in Riverside Park for the saving breeze from the Connecticut River. In last week's heat wave, folks came back to the river.
Riverside is now part of a system of parks along both sides of the river, a result of the fine Riverfront Recapture project. When the thermometer hit 100 degrees last week, crowds made their way to the river parks, to enjoy the cool breeze yet again.
Indeed, people were using the parks in greater numbers before the heat wave, said Riverfront Recapture Executive Director Joe Marfuggi. Mr. Marfuggi said using parks is again becoming integral to urban living. In the excellent series of discussions last year leading to the city's new plan of conservation and development, residents consistently put parks at the top of their priority list, to the surprise of some officials.
City councilman Luis Cotto has proposed reviving the city's parks and recreation department, which was disbanded more than a decade ago. Though it might take some funding legerdemain, the idea is worthy of support because it would bring more focus to the parks, one of Hartford's great assets.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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