Park users want their basketball hoops and pool back

Whether it was young man playing basketball on a court without hoops, a woman with a small child decrying the closure of a pool or families fed up with trash talk and drug activities, Memorial Park was the host site of a picnic Saturday afternoon where many aired their views about how to keep it free of litter and crime.

When Mayor Gabriel J. Campana ordered the rims removed from the basketball court at the park on West Fourth Street on June 24, he said he did it to educate the public and urged those using it to be better stewards or he would permanently remove the rims.

The mayor has promised the rims will be returned Monday, but what Campana may not have realized is the effect his decision had on a community that plays and enjoys a park and isn’t part of the trash throwing or drug activities.

In no uncertain terms, those at the picnic said they are willing to speak further with Campana and City Council on how they can monitor the park and protect youth.

Young men with great potential such such as Tyree Holly, 17, couldn’t wait until Monday rolled around.

With a basketball in hand, he threw it against a backboard.

He was upset Campana made a decision without talking to those who use the court first.

“It kind of mad me made when he took it down,” Holly said. “I didn’t know until the hoops were gone. When I see trash I pick it up.”

Holly, who said he will be a senior at Williamsport Area High School in the fall, said he also swam in the pool and understands how one pool is available for users at Shaw Place Park, about five miles east of Memorial Park, but he said that doesn’t make sense to a youngster in this part of the city.

Nearby the courts, a group calling itself “Rise Above” held a picnic beneath a pavilion, cooking up hot dogs, hamburgers and offering refreshments, as well as a discussion about how to “take the city back” and open more lines of communication so park amenities aren’t closing in the future.

The event wasn’t paid for by city dollars or sponsored by them, as one social media site erroneously posted, according to Councilwoman Bonnie Katz.

Several other council members also were present to see how it went and to listen to the speakers.

“We are going to take our city back,” said Irish Griffin, a city resident and organizer of Women of God Ministries, a spiritual study group.

“We are willing as citizens to monitor the pool and park,” Griffin said.

That means when litter is dropped, it gets picked up and placed in a trash can, and when profanity is heard, it is addressed by visits from police, she added.

“We’re willing to turn the city back around,” she said.

Vaughn Wilson, a co-founder of “Rise Above,” said the group seeks to have a presence and challenge youth to overcome negative influences.

Far from being a social issue, trashing a city park costs employees time and taxpayer money.

Prior to removal of the basketball hoops it was a daily task of the city Parks Department to pick up trash around the courts and throughout the park, according to William C. Wright, general manager of the department.

“This usually meant at least an hour or so to cleanup before you could mow,” he said.

Since the time of the hoops being removed, the city has not had to perform the cleanup task, and the park has remained clean, according to Wright.

Wright also said he notices that the tennis courts throughout the city – even in times of high usage – remain litter free.

Campana said he didn’t want to do it, but he refuses to allow drug activity to emerge and abhors the shootings have claimed lives in another park in the city.

Meanwhile, “Rise Above” won’t limit itself to the causes at Memorial Park.

Vaughn said the group is planning another picnic/festival in Brandon Park on Aug. 31.