PATERSON, NJ - Wrigley Park, also known Montgomery Park, rests in a 4th Ward neighborhood known for crime and poverty.
Over the years, the neighborhood problems contributed to the neglect of the park. But lately, the condition of the park has been on the upswing, say people who use it.
“Overall, this is one of the best parks in our area,” said Gloria Anderson, a Wrigley Park Camp Director. Anderson’s camp plays a role in keeping in that way.
“Every morning, our staff cleans the bathroom with a squeeze bottle of Lysol and disinfectant wipes, and we lock the bathrooms when we leave,” said Anderson. She also indicated that all the counselors bring some sort of hand sanitizer in case such an event happens.
This is the fifth consecutive year that Anderson has worked with the camp, and noted that her only complaint about the park is that “there is no shelter, as in a shaded area, for when it rains or for when it is exceptionally hot, for the kids.”
However, Anderson indicated that Wrigley had a ways to go before it was considered the best park in Paterson.
“Drugs and alcohol are everywhere (in this area). We do our best to make sure kids do not see any empty beer bottles, and as far as I can tell, drugs and alcohol are no longer a problem here except on the weekends. Nevertheless, I must say this park is getting better over the years,” Anderson reflected.
Indeed, on a recent visit there didn’t seem to be any empty liquor bottles around the park, there was a pretty noticeable amount of litter. The debris scattered about the grass included bottle caps, cigarette butts, straws, cup lids, empty bags used to sell drugs, and candy wrappers.
The playground and basketball courts were among the cleanest areas of the park and both seemed in good condition for local youths to enjoy.
On the courts, all the backboards had rims and all but one still had a net. The walls of the court were turned into murals, commemorating both the sport of basketball as whole, as well as some Paterson players.
Meanwhile, the playground area was very large, with a variety of equipment to choose from. That includes three sets of monkey bars, 10 swings (although two were broken), a tire swing, two cylindrical climbing walls, a couple picnic tables, and six slides.
There is also a sea creature-themed area in the middle of the playground, with a plastic seal, whale, dolphin, and two turtles about the size of a typical seesaw.
In the area where there is a memorial for Thomas Wrigley, whom the park is named after, there are also three hop scotch boards for children to play on.
Tony Brimley, a Wrigley Park Camp Counselor, describes his work place as “a top tier park in Paterson, because it’s a community gathering for children. I think it’s the city’s most popular park.”
Brimley elaborated by saying, “It’s at the center, the core, of Paterson, so I think that makes it more convenient for children to come here and play around.”
As far as negatives are concerned, the only thing that came to Brimley’s mind is “littering is somewhat of a concern, but the cops are always patrolling, keeping the environment safe and protected, so I don’t think there are any serious issues to worry about here.”
Cathy Vasquez, a local mom who was at the park with her kids, was not as positive regarding the park at the camp workers were.
“Looking at Paterson parks as I whole, I’d say Wrigley is in the middle,” Vasquez stated.
“I’ve seen adults drinking at getting high in the park while kids are still here,” Vasquez continued. “Anytime after 5 o’clock, you can see it…I’ve also seen men smoking marijuana over by the bleachers.”
“I’d much rather take my kids to an amusement park or a lake on a summer weekend,” Vasquez added. “Paterson parks, in general, are a last resort.’’