PATERSON, NJ - Located on Totowa Avenue, Westside Park is one of Paterson’s largest recreation areas.
One of the unique features of the park is that it provides people access to the Passaic River. That makes it a great haven for fishermen in the area.
E. Davis was there recently while her husband fished and was happy to speak about the park, which she rated in the middle tier of city recreation facilities.
“There’s a lot of work to be done here,’’ said Davis, who declined to give her first name, saying everyone simply knows her as E. “It could be cleaner. There are enough maintenance people who punch the clock here, so I don’t understand how it’s so dirty.”
Davis commended the park for the accessibility for people with disabilities. “I’m handicapped, but I am still able to sit close to the water throughout the park,” Davis said.
Davis also mentioned that the people at the park are friendly and that a hot dog vendor is always at the park entrance so food is easily accessible. Her husband also indicated that he has caught a variety of fish at the park before, including catfish, trout, and bass.
The fishing may be good at Westside, but it’s not one of the city’s cleanest parks.
During a recent visit, food wrappers, empty milk cartons, soda bottles, and plastic utensils littered an area near some benches and the rink. Meanwhile, toilet paper was strewn about outside a graffiti-covered portable bathroom.
Solaadeen Williams and Randy Walker, two assistant coaches for Kennedy football who work as Westside Park camp counselors during the summer, were critical of the park conditions.
“There are too many geese, which leave a ton of feces, the water sprinklers aren’t used, and the bathroom is incredibly dirty,” Williams said.
When asked why they would want to be camp counselors at a park they look down upon, Williams explained that it was for the kids. “One thing that can help to improve this park is responsible counselors,’’ said Williams. “As [Councilman] Benjie Wimberly says, kids come first. We need a place for kids and campers to have fun, and it would be a shame if they lost this park.”
But Paterson Parks Supervisor Brian Bogerman said maintenance workers do their best to keep the park in good condition.
“We clean this park everyday at 8 am,’’ Bogerman said. “I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say this, but citizens contribute to the litter problem, and that includes day camps and counselors.”
Indeed, much of the litter evident at the park was from snack foods that kids typically enjoy.
Bogerman estimated that 95 percent of the litter during the summer comes from campers.
“There are garbage cans every 15 feet, yet people don’t use them,’’ he said. “We also find garbage cans missing regularly, so people are either stealing them, or throwing them in the river.”
Bogerman also reminded people that Westside Park only has 7 public works employees a day, and that his squad has 17 parks to manage throughout the week.
Westside Park includes the James LaBagnara Athletic Field, which has seen better days.
Most of the grass on the baseball field, which is used by Kennedy High’s varsity for home games, is dead. Kennedy’s football team also uses the field to practice during its season.
Westside Park’s most appealing spots are the tennis and basketball courts, as well as the small playground. The tennis courts are nearly in immaculate condition. The basketball courts are about the same, except for some graffiti. The playground, including four swings, a couple slides, and a climbing pole, and was essentially litter free.