WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Fourth of July Committee held a nearly two-hour public forum on Tuesday night, presenting its plans for the 2016 Fun on the Fourth celebration and seeking feedback from the public.
Scott Garrant, Chairman of the Fourth of July Committee, gave a detailed presentation of his group’s proposal, which you can learn more about it HERE.
Garrant then turned the forum over to the public, fielding questions, comments and suggestions from the audience.
Speakers Against The Proposal…
Abutter Joe Mullens argued that if you don’t live in his neighborhood, you don’t know just how bad the carnival can be for Swain School area residents.
“After these carnival nights, our yards are littered with nips, pint bottles, and solo cups,” said Mullens. “I’ve had a rock thrown through my kitchen window. I’ve caught people in my yard urinating. No resident should have to deal with this.”
“Fourth of July weekend has become the weekend my family can’t leave,” continued Mullens. “We have to stay and protect our property… I rush home at the end of the fireworks from the Buzzell Center just to make sure my property doesn’t get damaged.”
“It’s just not the proper place to abut this carnival so close to residents, to squish it in around all these houses,” argued Mullens. “I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like right, smack, in our neighborhood.”
Abutter Steve Dineen was concerned about having such a popular attraction in such a small area.
“The area this carnival is proposed for can in no way accommodate the amount of people that will come to this event,” said Dineen. “Having grown up in Wilmington, I’ve seen this event grow exponentially. People are now coming in from other towns. It’s no longer just a Wilmington celebration.”
“I know there’s people that don’t live adjacent to this area that think – ‘C’mon, what’s the matter with you guys? You’re a bunch of killjoys’,” said Dineen. “We’ve had the carnival on that site for 20 years. It’s grown to the point where it’s not manageable like it used to be.”
Abutter Kathi O’Donoghue shared her concerns with the proposal.
“I live across the street. I keep looking at this area. I don’t even see how this is feasible,” said O’Donoghue. “I struggle when I drive around this town and see acres and acres of land and fields, why would you locate a carnival in this little residential area in a historic district around 50 abutters?”
Garrant stated that the Town Common area is the only location in town that can achieve all four necessary elements of the celebration – clearance for the fireworks, available parking, space for a carnival, and space for community groups
“I only ask that you respect our property, our homes, our safety, and our children’s safety,” said O’Donoghue, who is worried about the structural integrity of her 160 year-old home.
O’Donoghue would like to see an indemnification clause to protect her property. She’d also like to see the town set up a bond to cover any immediate damages done to abutters’ properties.
“I had a neighbor that was tied up in court for three years from [a carnival goer] who fell on their property trying to cut across it,” revealed O’Donoghue.
Garrant noted the carnival company has never had the request to indemnify anyone before.
“I’m not sure something can be done to extend home insurance to homeowners without having an adjuster come in and inspect the home, at a cost to somebody, and then turn around, if a claim is filed, to do a post claim inspection,” said Garrant. “I don’t know if it’s realistic.”
Abutter Suzanne Crooker had many requests, including having the carnival only be three nights, shutting the carnival down at 9pm each night, drug testing the carnival workers, placing a snow fences along abutting properties, and having town take out an insurance policy if any damage is done to an abutter’s property.
Since the town is willing to fund the fireworks, Crooker questioned whether the carnival is really even necessary anymore. (The carnival raises the funds for the firework displays.) Garrant countered that without the carnival, attendance would be down and the fundraising totals for the non-profit organizations at the community booths would greatly suffer.
Speakers In Favor Of The Proposal…
Fourth of July Committee member Jack Cushing, the Committee’s very first chair, spoke about his experience living close to the Town Common.
“I know what Fourth of July week is like, because I live on Middlesex Ave. I know what’s it like when you can’t get out of your driveway because of the traffic situation, when people try to park in your driveway, when people run across your lawn,” said Cushing.
“But I can accept it for a week,” continued Cushing. “It’s one of those things that if you live in the area, you really have to accept.” Cushing noted some of the other loud events that take place in that neighborhood, including football games at Wilmington High and the summer Concerts on the Common.
Peter James, who is involved with the Wilmington Congregational Church, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts, stressed how important the Fun on the Fourth Celebration is to local community groups in terms of fundraising and outreach.
“For the non-profit groups, I’m asking you to please considering having the carnival again [at the Town Common],” stressed James, who noted that the general public wants it there as well.
Chris Splaine, who lives on Adams Street, actually missed having the carnival and fireworks close to his home over the past three years.
“When the high school was there, the noise from the carnival was directed at my house. The fireworks shook my house,” said Splaine. “But you know what? I loved every second of it…. You might find beer cans on your lawn, but for a couple of days, suck it up.”
Splaine stressed that Wilmington has a great police force and he’s never had an issue during the celebrations.
Jeff Cranford, who is involved with St. Elizabeth’s Church, asked abutters if they needed representatives from the non-profit groups to help them with yard clean-up after the carnival.
“If you need a crew, I will get you a crew,” promised Cranford.
Pat Fregeau, involved with the scouting program in Wilmington, repeated Cranford’s offer.
“Let’s get the Boy Scouts, and let’s clean it up!” said Fregeau. “We will do whatever we can. We will concede whatever we can to continue this celebration… Can we help you with these four days, so the WHOLE town can have memories?”
Ruth King, who lives on nearby Powder House Circle, reports no issues.
“I just think it’s a marvelous time for the whole town. I hope we continue it.”
Joan Searfoss, the Fourth of July Committee’s longtime Vice Chair and a Powderhouse Circle abutter herself, is excited for the plans.
“You have no idea on how many hours have been put in to make this work, not only from the committee’ standpoint, but from the abutters,” said Searfoss. “I just hope people would have faith and give us the opportunity to continue this celebration that we’ve had now for 35 years.”
Searfoss also read a letter from Powderhouse Circle abutters Joe and Lisa Ferranti.
“Is the carnival an inconvenience? Maybe so. But I truly wish the current generation of Wilmington children have the opportunity to enjoy the carnival and all the things that my children enjoyed in the past years. You’ll get no objection from us…”
Watch the entire meeting, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below:
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