by Pete Mazzaccaro

This week, it’s a bit of a mixed bag for Pastorius Park.

On one hand, the park’s annual concert series, a popular summer institution organized by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, was funded again by a $10,000 donation from Chestnut Hill Hospital. The money will go a long way to ensure that the park will host more than a half dozen free concerts for the public.

On the other hand, the park was visited some time last week by a group of vandals who destroyed several old park benches and uprooted a few garbage cans. One bench was essentially ripped in half and the wooden slats were tossed in the park’s pond.

The Friends of Pastorius Park was quick to respond as reported in the front-page story this week by contributing writer Lane Blackmer. Within days, the group had hired a construction contractor to repair what it could. The bench that was tossed in the pond, though, was beyond repair.

It’s a good thing that Pastorius Park has such a strong Friends group. The park, an easy two-block stroll down W. Hartwell Lane from Germantown Avenue, is a real urban gem. It is not only a great site for the annual summer concert series, but also a daily destination for casual strolls and dog walks. It’s a great place for a picnic or a Frisbee toss, too (just be sure to set up away from the daily dog gatherings). It’s a great public space that adds a lot of value to living or working in Chestnut Hill. Without the Friends, it’s not hard to imagine that even Pastorius would not be nearly so inviting.

So what can be done about a group of bozos (no offense to legitimate clowns intended) who decide to get their kicks by wrecking public property?

As Friends president Pete O’Connor points out in Blackmer’s story, there’s only so much average citizens can do.

“There’s nothing we can do other than call 9-1-1,” he told Blackmer. “[And police and park rangers] can’t be there 24 hours a day.”

The Friends are planning to schedule a public meeting with the police to discuss better ways to protect the park and its furniture. It’s hard to imagine police will be able to patrol the area regularly. And it’s equally hard to fathom the use of video surveillance for the park. It’s tough to get into the mood of a quiet, meditative pastoral retreat when you know you’re being monitored.

Perhaps, though, surveillance is the best way to prevent future mayhem. O’Connor said that past efforts to light the park were met with the new lights getting smashed.

Perhaps, the destruction of the benches was a one-time thing that we won’t see repeated any time soon. But even that seems to be nothing but wishful thinking.

When the Friends set a date for the meeting, we’ll definitely publicize it. Maintenance of the park is something we should all be responsible for in some way. We all owe the Friends thanks for keeping the park as nice and inviting as it is.


And a quick welcome

to new staff

Last week was the first for our new Associate Editor, Sue Ann Rybak. You’ll find a handful of stories and photos this week with her byline.

Sue Ann is a longtime Northwest Philadelphia resident and a 2010 graduate of Temple University’s journalism program. She comes to us after a stint at the Roxborough Review and a handful of freelance efforts for Newsworks and the Local before that.

I’m happy to have her on the team.

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