Bronstein Park ban in effect as Manchester schools open
MANCHESTER — A 55-year-old woman, a cane by her side, sat on a bench in Bronstein Park just after 7:30 a.m. yesterday, oblivious to the "No Trespassing" signs posted by the city designating the park as public school grounds between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
"I walked right pass it," said Debbie, who declined to give her last name, as she sat on a bench on the Hanover Street side of the park.
She was unaware of the edict, which became official Wednesday, the first day of school in the Queen City.
The ban was put into place in response to nearly 50 overdoses related to the ingestion of synthetic marijuana known as "spice."
"What? Do you think a 55-year-old woman is going to be here smoking spice?" she asked.
Debbie questioned how banning people from using the park was going to stop anyone from buying the over-the-counter drug and smoking it.
"I don't know how it's going to stop that," she said. "If that is an unsafe product you get it out of the stores. It has nothing to do with the parks. I really think it's the wrong direction to go."
She walked with a reporter to take a look at one sign posted at the corner of Hanover and Union streets, next to the granite "Bronstein Park" sign and just above the "No Dog Fouling" sign.
Annoyed by the ban and apparently a reporter's questions as well, Debbie walked off. She later was seen sitting along a retaining wall outside the Gov. Hugh Gallen Apartments further down on Hanover Street.
Another woman, sitting on another bench along the south side of the park on Hanover Street, also was unaware of the ban.
Bahkiia Lauddo, who came to the United States in 2003 from Sudan, said she spends her nights at the New Horizons shelter on Manchester Street. At 7 a.m., when it empties, she heads to nearby Bronstein Park to spend the day.
"It's been hard," she said of her life in America.
At that time in the morning, no one was lolling around or doing drugs in the park.
A little after 8 a.m., a police patrol car was seen heading east on Amherst Street along the north side of the park. Lauddo was still sitting in the same place on the bench, undisturbed, at 8:15 a.m.
Around 7:30 a.m. groups of people walked through the park along the wide sidewalks, the vast majority students heading to Manchester Central High School.
A few teenagers stopped for a quick smoke before heading over to the school for the first day of classes. Talk consisted of messed up school schedules and the difficulty parallel parking an SUV between two compact cars near the high school.
"I love the park," said Central High junior Allie Franco, 17. She and her friends make it a point to have lunch in the park during the school day. She said she never saw anyone ingesting spice or doing drugs, at least last year.
"They were never here then," she said.
But another junior, Jeremiah Hunter, 16, said just the opposite, that he frequently saw people in the park doing drugs during the school day.
"They were always smoking some type of drug or knocked out on heroin," he said.