The grounds at Washburn Park in Marion have seen better days.
The recreational park where many come to play fetch with their dogs, attend horse shows, and play sports has been torn up by ATV tires that left a path of destruction in the form of long and deep tire ruts crisscrossing the fields and mounds of mud and sod that have been further exacerbated by the heavy rainfall and rapid snow melt.
Charles R. Washburn Memorial Trust President Wayne Mattson, during a telephone interview, said on Friday that the problem began about a month ago when tires ruts were first discovered at the lower field by the smaller horse ring.
“And the next thing we know, people are going through with quads, and just basically turning anywhere they want, riding across the ground any place they felt like,” said Mattson.
When Mattson brought the incident to the attention of the Marion Police Department, he was told that the police were aware of the situation and had an idea of who the offending suspects were, “But that’s all they could say,” Mattson said.
Now the grounds have been damaged even further when after the recent post-New Year’s snowstorm, the grounds were torn up even more severely.
“Sue, my wife, she went into tears when she saw it,” said Mattson, who commented that the photos he shared on the Charles R. Washburn Memorial Trust Facebook page aren’t even as upsetting as seeing it with one’s own eyes.
Some Facebook users commented that they had seen “older kids” riding dirt bikes and ATVs at Washburn Park recently, with one suggesting the offenders must live nearby the park.
Mattson suggested there are four offenders who are “rampaging” the park riding their all-terrain vehicles onto the property via the surrounding trails – but he is intent on catching them and, at the very least, deterring them from doing it again.
The Sippican Lands Trust has had ongoing issues with ATVs on its properties as well, says Jim Bride, executive director of the SLT.
ATV use on SLT land is prohibited.
“It is an ongoing challenge to deal with ATV use on our properties,” said Bride during a phone interview on Tuesday. He said the Town of Marion as well has had some trouble with damage caused by ATVs. “We work with the environmental police and the Marion Police to address the issues.”
Mattson said the trust has ordered signage and surveillance cameras to be installed at the park, paid for by the trust’s already very limited budget that is funded only by donations and rental fees for car shows and horse shows.
“This year, we’ve been trying to go for [Community Preservation Coalition] funds for more improvements, more fences,” said Mattson, “then we have somebody come along and do this.”
Mattson said the Town of Marion has been gracious by allowing the Department of Public Works to mow the grass at Washburn Park, “But I’m not so sure they’re going to be as gracious doing lawn repairs.”
With the limited funding that the nonprofit manages to raise, Mattson said, “We have better things to do with our money than to repair fields that irresponsible people keep ruining,” such as utility bills plus liability insurance, just to name a few.
Mattson has been the trust’s president for five years. The trust was formed back in 1955 with six founding members, but after some time interest in the trust dwindled, as did the work. The trust eventually reorganized and was granted official 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit organization.
“Our whole goal now is to put life back into [Washburn Park],” said Mattson.
If you’d like to make a donation to help fund the efforts to repair the grounds at Washburn Park, you can mail a check to P.O. Box 281, Marion, MA, 02738. In return you will receive a letter of donation for tax purposes.
By Jean Perry