Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Location: Riverbank Park at Night

Riverbank Park on a wintry night is the most beautiful spot in Westbrook. The park's clear, white lights serve as a respite from the rust-orange streetlights that plague the city's streets. And regardless of how crusty or stale the snow on the ground is, Riverbank's illuminating lamps never fail to make it look powdery and fresh. And the sky, that beautiful sky. Following a snowstorm (or even better, during snowfall), the sky above the park has a soft, pink glow that inspires a feeling of both melancholy and contentment in even the most cynical and restless bosom. But even when the sky is an inky black, the expanse above just seems more lively in Riverbank Park than anywhere else in the city.

Therefore, it's a damn shame the rules governing the park make such a nocturnal visit illegal, the stroll of a criminal, if you will.

There are signs posted at each of the park's three entrances which lay out the various rules of Riverbank Park. And though the libertarian (or romantic) in me is a little annoyed that smoking, alcohol, and pets are prohibited in the park, I am more than a little annoyed that the park is off-limits when it is dark. In fact, this seems to be such an important rule that it is essentially listed twice, only with different phrasing.

Now, I understand the practicality of prohibiting visitors after, say, midnight. More likely than not, visitors to the park at that hour are not going to the park for (euphemism alert!) respectable uses. However, any close reader of my Westbrook Almanac posts would recognize that the sun sets during the winter as early as 4:15p. It is ridiculous that a visitor to the park at that respectable hour risks being confronted by a member of Westbrook Police and told she has to leave, the park is now closed. (Actually, confronted is too strong of a word because the few times I've been talked to by the police about this matter--yeah, I'm a rebel--Westbrook's finest have been courteous). Anyway, my point is that the rules of the park should be changed so that the park is closed at a certain hour (anytime after 11p is fair, I think), instead of merely when night begins to set in.

And the closing time should remain consistent all year. After all, the second-most beautiful spot in Westbrook is Riverbank Park on an August evening.

- John C.L. Morgan

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