The Day – Donahue asks Stonington to improve conditions in Pawcatuck Park

Stonington – School board member Chris Donahue has slammed city officials and police for not doing more to stop drug use, vagrancy and public urination in downtown Pawcatuck Park named in memory of his late father and grandfather.

Donahue posted the review on his Facebook page last week after saying he had received photographs of used hypodermic needles that were collected during a recent cleanup at Donahue Park.

He wrote that the park was “a community-loving effort that my late father, Pawcatuck Fire Chief Steve Donahue, set out to make the area around the Pawcatuck River a place for families to enjoy.” .

“I know that others have approached the town hall, the police and social services to solve this problem. Nothing is done…”, he wrote. “So here it is in 2022. This park has been cleaned up and needles consistent with heroin use around the gazebo, ruining its intended use by families and older residents enjoying the river views. he’s going to take a needle stick from a resident, a city employee cleaning him up, or worse a child to get the town hall to act? Would that happen in other areas of the city? doubt.

He added that his father and grandfather Jack Donahue are “turning in their graves” that throwing needles and urinating in the grass in the park is allowed. Both Donahues had long histories of volunteer service in the city, including chairing the finance board and leading the Pawcatuck Fire Department.

“I’m furious about this and I’m not alone. How about a police substation in Pawcatuck? Isn’t that enough to get one? Does anyone care of the negative impact on good businesses in struggling Pawcatuck in this economy? I am now publicly calling for something to be done,” he concluded.

But first coach Danielle Chesebrough and police captain Todd Olson both said last week that the city and police have done a lot of outreach at the park since last summer and will continue to try to help those there. cause problems. They also spoke with Donahue.

Asked about his post last week, Donahue softened his criticism a bit.

“I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” he said of Chesebrough. “She’s always been square with me.”

“And I know the police are doing the best they can and they’re in demand, but a little more presence there wouldn’t hurt,” he added.

Donahue said he had recently heard about problems at the park from residents. Along with an increased police presence, he suggested better lighting in and around the park and more outreach to help people with substance abuse issues.

Chesebrough said that since last July she, the police, director of social services Leeanne Theodore, community outreach specialist Deanna Rushlow, the New London Homeless Hospitality Center and the WARM Shelter in Westerly have met to address issues in the park. The group last met on Friday.

She said Rushlow makes weekly visits to the park to offer assistance to people who frequent the park. She said she also discussed the issue with new police chief Jay Delgrosso. Also, she said, the public works department removed part of the gazebo so people couldn’t sleep on it and unplugged it.

“We’ve been working on this for some time,” Olson said, adding that police department chaplains also spend a lot of time in the park talking to people, even hosting Alcoholics Anonymous meetings there. He said recently retired police chief J. Darren Stewart visits the park daily.

“There have been some successes, but it takes time to build trust and get people to want help,” he said. “Some people might not trust the police, so we tried to involve the right people.”

“We’re not looking to arrest people. That’s not always the solution,” Olson said. “We seek to do what is best for the person involved and for everyone else,” he said. “We’re all working together to do our best there.”

Along with stepping up patrols, Olson said police have also been talking with the Board of Selectmen about enacting an ordinance that would close the park after sunset so police can better control what’s going on there. pass. He said such an ordinance would be similar to those in place for other city parks.

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