Could a Feast-Style Pit Be the Answer to Grilling in the Parks? [OPINION]
Grilling is back at the city's parks--at least for now.
The New Bedford City Council has in effect lifted a moratorium on grilling for the balance of the summer season, while it looks for solutions to problems that led to the moratorium in the first place. The biggest issue has been the filth and trash left behind by those who grill.
One possible solution being discussed is a permitting process, whereby those wishing to grill would have to purchase a permit. The citizens are already being nickeled and dimed by the city and it needs to stop. Access to the municipal beaches and parks, with the exception of the zoo, should be cost-free.
Charging people to park at the beach or at Fort Taber Park is charging them to access those areas, since there are no other parking options. Charging people $5 to park at the Whale's Tooth lot in order to attend the Friday concert on the pier is wrong. And making families pay for a permit to grill in the parks would also be an injustice.
For many poor and working poor families, the municipal parks and beaches are a way to escape the heat and grit of the neighborhoods while providing recreation for their children. It isn't always easy to find a spare $5 here and there when you live month-to-month or week-to-week. Many of these families cannot afford Horseneck Beach or fancy Sunday dinners out, so grilling in the park is an alternative for them.
That said, those who use our parks and beaches have an obligation to keep them clean and safe for others, and must respect the neighborhoods by picking up trash and properly disposing of their cooking materials.
In addition, the city needs to play a greater role in policing these areas and enforcing the rules during the summer season. There must be constant supervision and interaction at these facilities during peak hours. Trash cans should be emptied at regular intervals throughout the day during high traffic periods. Rules must be posted and strictly enforced.
Perhaps a communal grilling area can be established, similar to the pit area at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, that would restrict all cooking to one area that could easily be supervised.
The City Council, Park Board, Chiefs of Police and Fire and Mayor Mitchell should immediately begin meetings to formulate a plan that can not only allow grilling to continue next year, but perhaps even enhance the experience.
You cannot encourage people to use the beaches and parks and then leave them largely unsupervised. These beautiful areas and the people that use them deserve better than that.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.