Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA
The Heartbeat of Haverhill usually tries to keep things cheery, fun and positive, but in light of a recent THOH Facebook post calling Swasey Field an urban success that appeared to some to be completely contradicted a few days later, I’d like to present my point of view…
First here’s what The Heartbeat of Haverhill Facebook page wrote about Swasey Field on May 11.
Swasey Field, 59 Blaisdell St; Haverhill.
After it’s recent renovation, Swasey Field is to The Heartbeat of Haverhill one of the best assets in the city. It’s beautiful in all seasons, has lots of space, ALWAYS has people of all ages (even pre-teens) enjoying it, offers a variety of activities, sledding hill, ice skating, splash pad, large playground, organized and spontaneous sports, basketball courts, baseball fields, walking path, summer activities and lunches, and plenty of spaces in between for relaxing and chatting with friends. The Park is ringed with a few shade trees that are especially beautiful right now. But what maybe the most practical thing about the field – it actually has a bathroom.
This spring it’s always about baseball, little league, etc. Three games and six teams took over the fields. One team THOH watched last night were 6-7 years old where an adult does the pitching and kids are basically and kindly escorted back to their field positions when they wander off enticed by some activity, friend, flower, or bug.
Big thanks to the support of the community for funding the teams. Yesterday some of the company names on the back of the baseball jerseys were – Haverhill Bank, Roma Restaurant and Joe Roy & Sons Plumbing and Heating.
As a kid I was bored to tears when we went as a family to watch my little brother’s games. This was well before the internet and even before girls played on the teams. But if the games had been played at the Swasey Field of today, I would have begged to go.
On May 14 we heard about a daylight shooting at, or very nearby – details have not been fully released. The newspapers talked to the baseball leagues that are contemplating cancelling all games at the fields. Everyone, understandably, wants to keep children safe. However, I’ve read and heard harsh criticism accusing the neighborhood, the park location, and the people living there with a broad sweep as the roots of the problems. They advise staying clear of the area, always.
I have a big problem with that. I don’t think a couple of scumbags or maybe one scum and one victim should undermine the good work going on there. If you want to see that park fall into despair and neglect and become a blight, then staying away is exactly what you should do.You’d be letting the evil take what they don’t deserve.
Admittedly, I lived a fairly idyllic life as a kid. I grew up in a tony town with home values twice that of the average home here in Haverhill and you know what happened – a high school classmate of mine was shot by his father when he tried sneaking back into the house. Years after I left, the house I grew up in became the scene of a double homicide, a drug deal gone awry. In my early adult years I lived in another well thought of community and one morning at about 5am, the feds came in and broke down the door and fired some sort of canon like thing at a neighboring property. I hid in the bathroom with my pets and occasionally sneaked a peek out of the window to see smoke and flashing blue light. In all of these incidents neither the town nor neighborhood was blamed for the trouble. The blame was placed where it was deserved – on the perpetrators.
It is the worst kind of bigotry to assume the whole neighborhood is at fault in the crime committed near Swasey Field. I come in contact with far too many people trying to and succeeding in making a difference to discount the masses in any neighborhood.
This afternoon without a solid plan in my head just a gnawing heaviness in my heart, I went alone to Swasey Field. A solitary parent and child romped on the playground equipment, a cluster of three or four people chatted with a person on a bicycle at the far end of the field, and a couple of pick up games occupied the basketball courts where last week there had been six games with several others waiting for their turn. All three baseball fields were empty, no cheering parents ringed the fields. I walked the perimeter, to mark my turf so to speak, and the turf of the others who deservedly play in this field. This place is ours. Eventually I stopped at the basketball courts. The sight held both promise and hope. Two uniformed officers (their patrol car parked nearby) shot hoops with a young boy at one end (thanks Haverhill and HPD for sending them there) and a group of maybe a half dozen young adult men occupied the other.
It’s too soon I guess to expect normalcy, but I did get so involved watching this young boy sink shot after shot, that I forgot I was supposed to be thinking of ways to mitigate the crime and ensuant bigotry. But I did have one thought….How many days/years of fun came before and will come after this one criminal day? Those days mean much more.
The Heartbeat of Haverhill commends all those people (police and civilians) who came to the park today to play rather than gawk. You are the superheroes that will deter similar events.