Playground is free of needles and safe, board members say

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com
A recent comment about needles in the bleachers at Jerome R. King Playground is unfounded and the grounds are checked regular to ensure the safety of everyone who goes there, according to board members. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT

Representatives of Jerome R. King Playground say a comment made about needles at the playground at a Greencastle Borough Council meeting earlier this month is off the mark and they want people to know the playground is safe.

At the council meeting, Bill Little, deputy EMS chief for Greencastle and Antrim Township, talked about the dangers of heroin and fentanyl; said neighbors have found syringes near his apartment building and one person told him the bleachers at the playground are full of them; and called for the creation of a task force to look at drugs and paraphernalia in the community.

"There aren't needles everywhere as stated," said Lon Barkdoll vice president of the playground board, explaining he has found one needle at the playground in the past five years.

Barkdoll and Kim Siner, a playground board member, said they are not naive, drugs are in the community and no place is immune — schools, the playground, the Square.

However, the playground is well used and board members and people from the community are there a lot, include Barkdoll and his brothers, Vic and Tod.

"It's almost my second home," Barkdoll said.

Siner has lived next to the playground for 17 years, walks there often and has never seen a needle.

She noted the woman who cleans the bathroom reports any problems she sees and has never mentioned syringes.

"This is 15 acres of our downtown community where everyone of all ages can come," said Siner, noting playground "regulars" point out issues, too.

Greencastle police also regularly patrol the playground both by car and on foot.

"In addition we have conducted a rather extensive search of the property in the last few days and not found any needles," Chief John Phillippy said at the end of last week.

"Most importantly we, as a community, are very fortunate to have a group of dedicated individuals who volunteer their time to care for the property and the Greencastle PD has a very good working relationship with them. They check the grounds every day and I am confident that if such a problem was happening we would have been notified," Phillippy continued.

The popularity of the playground makes it less likely for problems to occur.

"The more people there, the less drug activity you have," Barkdoll said.

In addition to baseball teams, children's groups, families with kids, dog-walkers, pickup basketball players, tennis buffs and others, there often are activities at the playground.

The most recent movie night drew an audience of 150 and "Mary Poppins Returns" will be shown on Aug. 23.

The playground also will host a number of events during the 40th Triennial Old Home Week, including concerts in the park, Fun Day, Paint in the Park and the old-timers baseball fame.