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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
WORCESTER — Sixteen-year-old Kadisha Evans said she was shooting baskets June 30 at the seldom-used Holland Rink Playground on Lincoln Street when a heavy-duty steel basketball backboard came crashing down onto the court.
Kadisha, who plays varsity basketball at Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, said she shot about 10 free throws before the heavy basketball structure tumbled to the pavement, sounding like a car crash.
The teen said she enjoys having her father, Carl, rebound as she shoots baskets in the solitude of the park. But on that particular day, Kadisha said, she's glad her father stayed in his car scratching lottery tickets.
"Luckily, I didn't go for a layup, or my dad wasn't under the hoop for a rebound, because it would've went down on him or me," she said, speculating that it could have resulted in death or serious injury.
The teen said she was shaken up by the incident.
"It was so scary," she said. "What if it fell on me? It was really, really loud, to the point I didn't even know what was going on."
Kadisha said she was 6 when she began going to the park. She said she goes there when she doesn't want to play basketball with boys at the courts at Lincoln Village Apartments.
On Wednesday, Kadisha returned to Holland Rink Playground and its lone remaining basketball hoop, whose rim was flimsy. The fallen backboard structure had been removed. The pavement was cracked throughout.
"For the city to have it like this, it's sad," she said.
Mr. Evans, a retired Army veteran, said, "I would like for the city to redo the park, make it a better park, make it a new park. Resurface the pavement. New backboards. Because it's really deteriorated, bad."
The Evanses said they went to the city manager's office Wednesday to notify city officials about the backboard incident and the condition of the park.
They said they were told that the commissioner of parks would be notified.
Reached for comment, John Hill, a spokesman for City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., said Mr. Augustus "understands parks are one of our most vital assets as a city, and has been working hard to improve them wherever possible.
"During his tenure, the manager has made parks improvements a priority, and has expanded funding for capital renovations for our 60 parks, as well as capital equipment and manpower for the parks division overall."
For fiscal 2018, which began this month, Worcester has allocated $11.2 million in borrowing for capital improvements and $1.2 million in capital equipment purchases for parks, Mr. Hill said.
In the past three years, Mr. Hill added, major renovations have been completed or are now underway at Elm Park, Crompton Park, Greenwood Street Park, Castle Park, Green Hill Park, Mulcahy Field, Holmes Field, Betty Price Playground, Glodis Field (Providence Street Playground), Canterbury School Playground, Indian Hill Park, and Shore Park.
This is in addition to the new Blackstone Gateway Park in Quinsigamond Village; the new universally accessible park at the former Coes Knife site, and two new dog parks being constructed at Beaver Brook and Vernon Hill.
Mr. Hill noted that Holland Rink Playground's overall condition is fair, though it does not get as much use as other parks because of its location up against Interstate 290 and Lincoln Street.
The park has an approved master plan, though money in the upcoming capital budget has been allocated to other parks that are frequently used, Mr. Hill said.
Located across from Hanover Insurance Group, Holland Rink Playground has been dubbed one of the city's "phantom playgrounds" in that it lacks a playground.
It once had a wading pool, but when I-290 was built in 1967, it severed the Holland Recreation Area from Green Hill Park, destroying the pool and leaving only basketball courts and a ball field.
Elsewhere in the city, most people said that they were pleased with the condition of parks they used Thursday.
At University Park, city resident Lawrence Cote said he walks daily through the park to get to a store to purchase the newspaper.
"I think it's in great shape," said Mr. Cote. He added that he enjoys "just sitting down and enjoying the scenery, the birds flying." Mr. Cote commended the city for its upkeep of the park.
A man who only identified himself as Oscar ran laps around the pond at University Park.
"I like to come run here. Other than that, I don't really like to come here to enjoy it. It's not one of the best parks out here," he said, though he noted later that the park is much cleaner than "back in the day."
At Bell Hill Park, Diane St. Francis spoke as her 7- and 9-year-old grandsons played in the water, excited about their new fidget spinner. "I don't mind it here," she said. "It's clean so far." Her only complaints, she said, were the lack of bathrooms and absence of a lifeguard. A few minutes later, a couple of lifeguards arrived at the park.
Parks on Camp Street and Shrewsbury Street had well-attended summer programs going on, and the parks appeared well kept. On Camp Street, a public works employee picked up litter with a trash poker and emptied barrels during the morning.
Shrewsbury Street's Cristoforo Colombo Park looked immaculate in the midst of summer programs.
"I see cigarette butts and stuff," a man who would only identify himself as Steve said at Cristoforo Colombo Park. "But other than that, it's a beautiful park."
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