Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Location: Riverbank Park

Seven ideas for a better Riverbank Park:

1. Provide better public restrooms

I'm not asking for hi-tech Washlet toilets. Just something a little better than the one porta-potty currently offered.

2. Improve public perception of the Presumpscot River

In June 1997, then-Gov. Angus King and State Senator John Nutting dove into the Kennebec River to publicly vouch for the cleanliness of that river. In the case of the Presumpscot, though, it'll take more than BruChu and Johnny O'Hara donning Speedos and cannon-balling off the Black Bridge to convince Westbrook folk to think of the Presumpscot as a viable recreational river. Sure, Chief Bill Baker et al. did their part last December. But discarded bicycles and shopping carts plague both the river's bottom and the public's perception of the river. The cleanup being organized for May 10 will help rid the river's bank of the litter strewn about, but more needs to be done.

3. Construct a barrier that separates the park from Main Street

Though a natural barrier (trees, bushes, etc.) is preferable, any aesthetically-pleasing barrier that cuts down Main Street's noise pollution and encloses the sprawling park would be accepted. Another bonus: No more rust-orange glow from Main Street streetlights leaking into the white-light atmosphere of the park.

4. Book one (or more) of these bands for a Wednesday evening concert

The storyline is a little stale, but still true: Westbrook provides the proximity to Portland life, but not the Forest City's relatively high rents or mortgages. Therefore, book some musicians such as Samuel James, Hiss & Chambers, Phantom Buffalo, or (fill in another band or two here) that might attract some of the P-Town youngins to Westbrook. It's a win-win-win situation: Westbrook can market itself as a hip-enough alternative to expensive Portland, the musicians can market themselves to a suburban audience, and I will be within walking distance of a concert by some of my favorite bands.

5. Restrict primary parking to outside the park

Since Riverbank is Westbrook's primary park (not to mention the fact that we live in a car-dominant culture), there are many cars that need to be, well, parked. Unfortunately, that means the backbone of the park--the thoroughfare that runs along the playground from Main Street--is often clogged with an orgy of metal. Therefore, parking should be limited to the American Legion parking lot abutting the park, as well as Dunn and Main Streets. A corollary benefit to the restricted parking is that the park may experience more diverse uses, as people would be forced to interact with it, instead of simply stepping out of their minivans and hopping onto the playground.

6. Revise the park's rules and regulations

There are currently eight rules posted in the park: Park hours are dawn to dusk, alcoholic beverages are prohibited, no loitering between sunset and sunrise, pets must remain in vehicles, no smoking, no drugs, keep the vehicles off the grass, and throw away your trash. Five of these eight rules, however, should be revised or chopped out altogether. Closing time, for example, should be mandated by a time, not the lack of sunlight (see here for an earlier argument) And smoking cigarettes and the responsible consumption of alcohol should be allowed beyond a certain distance from the playground. Moreover, leashed pets should be allowed to roam the park (slap their owners with a huge fine for not picking up after them, if that is the concern).

7. Complement the trash receptacles with recycling containers.

We have to improve the city's pathetic recycling rate somehow.

- John C.L. Morgan

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