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Cleaning Up Hartford's Parks

by Susan Campbell

August 24, 2010

If you feel tempted to litter in Hartford’s Colt Park, don’t. Just don’t.

I helped pick up trash there Monday morning. The photo above is my first haul, and now? Colt Park is my park and if you trash it, prepare to suffer my wrath.

Hartford’s new mayor, Pedro E. Segarra, said Hartford parks need cleaning, so volunteers are fanning out all week - Saturday, too - to make that happen during the Week of the Parks. The mayor stopped by in Monday's cool mist. When pressed, he said his favorite park is Keney, for all the activities that go on there. (The park just had its 25th annual Family Day this weekend.)

Mine favorite is Bushnell, downtown's jewel with its awesome monuments, and diverse trees and shrubs.

But as of Monday, I have an affinity for Colt, as well. The 140-acre tract in south Hartford was donated to Hartford after the death of Elizabeth Colt in 1905. Her husband, inventor Samuel Colt - he of the famous firearm-- was a millionaire by age 40, and dead at 47. Elizabeth carried on his work, and became one of Hartford’s better-known philanthropists. The park was the family’s meticulously-maintained Victorian garden, and now, the plot, with its soccer and baseball fields, represents only a corner of her legacy.

In fact, Colt Park was part of roughly 1,000 acres of public preserves added in a 10-year period at the turn of the last century, according to a 2007 report from the Trust for Public Land. According to that report, today almost every Hartford resident is within a mile of a park; 60 percent are within a quarter-mile.

A 1915 Courant story said Colt Park offers “every kind of amusement is at the service of pleasure-seekers.” On Monday, some of the detritus of modern-day pleasure-seekers included tiny (empty) plastic bottles of liquor, tiny (also empty) cocaine cellophane packets, and an inordinate amount of drinking straws. I suspect Elizabeth Colt would not be amused.

Through it’s 105-year history, the park has been the site of sports, concerts, and crowded dances on a quarter-acre dance floor. Vintage baseball teams play there. Monday, a young women’s soccer team ran drills on a damp field.

John Timm, Hartford’s parks superintendent, was there early with a trunkload of rakes, gloves and tools for picking up trash - both pickers and stabbers. I tried a picker, but quickly I lack skills to effectively wield a pointed object, so I opted for a picker. In a kind-hearted attempt to be supportive, Timm said I might have a future in parks maintenance, should this journalism thing dry up.

In truth, picking up trash is a relaxing way to start the week. You can still volunteer by calling H. Charmaine Craig at Knox Parks Foundation at 860-951-7694 x14. The clean-up goes on, rain or shine. If you work or shop in Hartford, these are your parks, too.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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