The Heartbeat of Haverhill

Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA

Swasey Field An Urban Success, Still

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.

IMG_6952 Haverhill Swasey Field spring w baseball and basketball

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.

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell

10 comments on “Swasey Field An Urban Success, Still

  1. lynnefavreau
    May 15, 2016

    Thank you so much for writing this, and more so for continuing to support our community by sharing its wonderful resources. The ugliness of anonymous voices disparaging any part of our community are not the voices we need to listen to. Rather, ss the summery days grow longer, let’s tune into the children’s voices raised in play and parent’s encouraging laughter typically heard all over Swasey Field.

  2. Amy Kamps
    May 15, 2016

    I take my pup to Swasey every day. Sure, some mornings look like a crime scene, bottles, a needle, and even once, some punk flashed a gun at me for asking him to put his dog on leash. But 99% of time, there is beauty, peace, and people enjoying nature. Kids playing, walking up the hill to Tilton Elementary, it’s a gorgeous park. Do not be intimated by a couple of bad apples. Our pets and kids need Swasey.

    • Brain4Rent/THoH
      May 15, 2016

      Amy, I appreciate your input as a neighbor and active participant in the park.

  3. Katie Dinges
    May 15, 2016

    As a parent who was affect first had by this violent act, I have to voice my opinion to disagree. I am not a bigot. I am a mother, who has watched her son play baseball in this city for 8 years. All along the way, there have been instances of inappropriate behavior on the fields. Whether it’s Swasey or Riverside Park, Wood School or any other field in Haverhill, parents and coaches are the ones protecting the children. We have had to clean up needles, empty alcohol bottles, ask unsupervised children to get off fields in the middle of game play and deal with vandalism on every field. Today just topped it off. I am a lifelong resident of Haverhill and I, for one, take offense to the accusation of bigotry in this blog.
    You talk to your boy about having to take cover while standing at bat ready to swing when shots are fired in the park you are playing. Not “nearby”. You talk to your daughter who doesn’t ever want to watch her brother play again out of fear of future gun shots. The people that create this problem are the issue, the lack of law enforcement until today are the issue, not the innocent victims who just happened to trying to play a game of baseball.
    I don’t care what neighborhood it is in. There were people there that were not there for the appropriate reasons. If gang violence is an issue there, we can’t pretend that it is the victim that’s the problem.
    Enough blaming the victim, get to the root and take care of it.

    • Brain4Rent/THoH
      May 15, 2016

      Katie, it did not say you are a bigot nor do I have any reason to believe you are. I believe you should do whatever feels safe for you and your family. My reaction was for those who espoused derogatory comments that I will not I won’t repeat about the entire neighborhood and the viability of the park.

      I fully endorse stepped up options to deal with whatever plagues the city in a serious and comprehensive manner. The Mayor mentioned in a comment that he plans to be onsite tomorrow at 5pm at the basketball courts – this should provide a great opportunity for people to voice their needs and for him to detail how he will step up the protection.

    • Crystal clark
      May 16, 2016

      I completely agree this is just to disturbing for me my seven-year-old twins had a game on Thursday there was so much commotion you couldn’t even focus cause cars parade up and down the street music blasting you could clearly see guns under the shirt of some of the basketball players there I thought to myself that Thursday someone’s going to get sprayed with bullets it’s going to be one of our children will never step foot on that field again and gratefully the baseball leagues have changed their games they will not be playing at that field

      • Brain4Rent/THoH
        May 16, 2016

        It is important to keep kids safe. But I was there Thursday as well and the music was loud sometimes but it is anywhere that wasn’t an issue for me at all as cars drove past. And I spent a long time photographing the basketball players and didn’t see guns at all and I’ve gone back to check my images. Not saying you didn’t, just that wasn’t my experience. If I did however, I would have called the police if I could “clearly see guns under shirts” that’s a pretty scary scenario. So sorry that your kids experienced it that way.

  4. Joe D'Amore
    May 16, 2016

    I initiated a Street-based outreach for COMMON GROUNDS CAFE- distributing with volunteers , bagged lunches for the poor and homeless , every Friday , at 2:00 PM till 4:00 at GAR Park. ‘

    The police department has been a reliable source of information and guidance and they maintain a watchful eye over us. We are free to conduct our humanitarian outreach without worry .

    The situation at Swasey is regrettable . But these occurrences, though rare, can happen anywhere. I’ve developed a deep love and respect for the people of Haverhill and the overwhelming majority of residents who are law-abiding, peace-loving and who have a resiliency that builds up the community.

    And I feel secure knowing that Mayor Fiorentini, government leaders and the police department do everything in their power to keep everyone safe. This post confirms many truths about the people of Haverhill.

    Joe D’Amore
    Groveland, MA

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Alison Colby-Campbell



Full-brain user demonstrating a healthy(?) obsession with marketing, promotion, writing, photography, house rabbits, the natural world, tennis, big and small problem solving, reading, hiking, HGTV and the flotsam & jetsam of everyday life. My three blogs Brain4Rent, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography are Wordpress based.

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