AUBURN — Larry Pelletier, a public park watchdog, is disturbed by what he says is a lack of respect for city green spaces, especially Bonney Park.

The part is named for police officer Rocky Bonney, who drowned trying to save a teenager in the Androscoggin River in 1981.

On Wednesday, Pelletier pointed out trash in the park — a chip bag, a candy bar wrapper, cigarette butts, a half-filled Styrofoam cup on a bench. It wasn’t a lot, but the park had just been cleaned, Pelletier said.

“I see litter on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s a recurring thing.”

Under the Main Street pedestrian tunnel near the park, walls are covered with graffiti. Nearby, a section of an expensive black metal fence had been vandalized, a section bent and torn down.

There used to be a picnic table until it was destroyed by vandals, Pelletier said.

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Pelletier, the most active member of the city’s “Park Patrol,” walks more than two miles several times a week along the river cleaning up. He starts from his New Auburn home, goes through Bonney Park, across the footbridge into Lewiston and along the Auburn Riverwalk on both sides of the river.

When he walks, he carries a five-gallon bucket and a picker.

“You wouldn’t want to pick up (the trash) with your hands,” he said.

He fills his bucket with trash, beer cans, liquor bottles, broken bottles, used condoms, food wrappers, cups, dog feces, dirty diapers, clothing, pens and unopened letters and bills.

By the time he makes the round trip and is back in Bonney Park, there’s fresh litter on the ground, he said. People buy products in one of two convenience stores on either side of the street, consume the product, then throw trash on the ground, even though trash cans are nearby, he said.

“This park was named for an officer who gave his life trying to save a young man,”  Pelletier said. “It should be treated with respect. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who don’t know the history of the park.”

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He wants to raise awareness of the park’s meaning, that it’s not being treated the way it should be.

“It’s not a conducive place for kids and families after hours, which is a shame, especially on nice, summer nights,” he said.

Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell, who has high praise for Pelletier’s efforts, said a few things need to happen to improve behavior in green spaces.

One is an educational campaign about not littering. There are those in their teens and 20s or 30s “who disregard the rules within the park and litter,” the chief said. No matter how many trash cans are available, they litter, Crowell added.

Secondly, “I like the idea of cameras in the parks and getting better lighting,” he said.

The park is closed at night, but it’s legal to walk through it, he said. Many residents feel it’s unsafe to walk through at night because it’s too dark. And others “are throwing their trash in the pitch dark,” Crowell said. “When you light up an area, you have less issues.”

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Cameras and lighting could happen in the future if budgets, grants or donations make it possible, Crowell said.

Until there are cameras and lights, Pelletier hopes to make more people aware.

“I would like people to respect others, themselves, their community, show their kids this isn’t good behavior,” Pelletier said. Everyone should have safe, clean parks to bring their children.

He’ll keep picking up to keep conditions from getting worse.

“The chief of police uses a broken window theory; when people see a broken window, they think nobody cares and it’s OK to break more,” Pelletier said. “I don’t want us to become like larger cities, where things have gone to hell and we end up with slums.”

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‘Park Watch’ launched after Pelletier’s involvement

AUBURN — Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell described Larry Pelletier as a great advocate for the city, someone who’s passionate about protecting green spaces.

“He’s got a huge heart for kids’ safety,” Crowell said.

Three years ago, the city launched “Park Watch” because of Pelletier’s involvement and concern about protecting green spaces, Crowell said.

Since the program came about, several people have signed up to be members. “Park Watch” signs give the public ways to share with officials problems such as vandalism or unsafe conditions.

Before “Park Watch,” a woman complained why police hadn’t done anything about graffiti with profanity inside a child’s slide.

“We never knew about it,” Crowell said. “We can’t fix something if we don’t know.”


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