BERLIN – A community group shared plans to reinvigorate Henry Park by transforming its basketball courts into a work of art this week.
Members of the nonprofit We Heart Berlin met with the Berlin Parks Commission Tuesday to discuss a proposal to paint the basketball courts at Henry Park. Group members believe that with a bright and exciting paint job performed with the help of community members, area residents would have renewed interest in the park.
“My big thing is … for when the youths come out there they’re not attracted to go sit underneath the pavilion and smoke marijuana, sell drugs, drink alcohol,” said Adrian Bowen of We Heart Berlin. “That’s what’s been going on out there the past few years. Nobody’s even stepping foot on the basketball court.”
Bowen and Carol Rose, both on the nonprofit’s board, told the commission the group wanted to paint the basketball courts to brighten up the park. Bowen said the plan was to work with Shelton Hawkins, an Easton native who’s promoting the international trend of turning basketball courts into murals, to paint the court at Henry Park.
“We’re trying to give it some life and make it more inviting,” Bowen said.
He told the commission he grew up playing basketball at Henry Park and now, as a father of four kids, he’d seen the park undergo a change. Local residents aren’t taking advantage of the park, particularly the basketball courts, like they used to, he said.
Mary Bohlen, deputy town administrator, said that wasn’t entirely accurate. She pointed out that Worcester County Recreation and Parks hosted a summer basketball program there.
Bowen maintained that the courts weren’t getting as much use as they did in the past and said he just wanted to draw people to the park. He added that by involving the community in the project, residents would take ownership of it. He said the park in recent years was used by people smoking and drinking and that the basketball courts saw little play.
“I disagree with that,” Bohlen said. “I think that’s way too broad a statement to say the courts are never used.”
Commission member Laura Stearns said she thought the project would generate excitement. Bohlen said issues such as maintenance had to be considered, as that would be questioned by the town council before elected officials approved the project.
“There’s nothing being said here and asked here they’re not going to ask,” she said.
Rose said We Heart Berlin had information on the painting process that could be provided to officials and added that the group was applying for grants to fund the art installation, which would be the group’s first real project. She said that Hawkins had done successful basketball court murals in Easton and Cambridge.
“We felt like for a very first project this was just special on many fronts,” she said.
Commission member Patricia Dufendach said she thought the project sounded exciting but that she wanted to ensure it would do no harm to the park. Commission member Sarah Hooper offered similar comments, pointing out that when the paint faded it would needed to be fixed or removed.
“We just want it to be successful,” Dufendach said.
Bohlen said she would recommend the group waited to approach the town council with the project until its nonprofit status, applied for earlier this year, was official.
“We’re waiting,” Rose said. “Everything is filed.”
The commission voted unanimously to support the project.