Entrance to Kern Park
Kern Park is a 24-acre neighborhood park located in the northeast section of Bristol near Ivy Drive School. The park, plagued by neglect and vandalism since its development in 1970, became a campaign issue for the District 1 council candidates during the 2017 municipal election. However, due to the hard work of volunteers and some attention from the city, a renaissance has begun but some bitter feelings remain.
Boardman sat down with Kern Park for an interview near Sergio’s Pizza one of his favorite haunts. Kern arrived late appearing tired and worn; decades of neglect and abuse from the city have obviously taken their toll. He has some stubble from not shaving and at almost 50 signs of gray are beginning to appear.
One gets the feeling Kern Park is both apprehensive and suspicious of being interviewed. We sat on a curb in the parking lot after hours with nothing, but the light from Sergio’s marquee and the ember of his lit cigarette, to keep us company.
I am trying to quit.
Okay, let’s get down to the nut-cracking. In the 1970s the city had trouble funding and finishing you, Kern Park.
In the 1980s you fell victim to vandalism.
In the 1990s the city forgot you existed.
In the early 2000s the city tried to sell you to a developer in order to build a box store.
What of it?
Why do you think the city keeps doing this to you?
Maybe I am unlucky. Or maybe I have a bad PR department. Or, maybe just maybe, it’s because I am not located in the West End or on Federal Hill or on Chippens Hill making me easy to forget.
You appear angry.
In 1986 the then mayor said you, the park, “just never worked.”
I forgot about that. Thanks for reminding me. I thought for sure I was going to be turned into condominiums.
Where are we today?
The tennis courts have given way to spray painted expressions of lover’s lament and other tasteless remarks. There is a thicket where the basketball court use to be, you can’t recognize where the swings were and a swamp has suddenly materialized. Under today’s “parlants” they call it an eco-system, but it’s a swamp.
Recently, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and Councilor Greg Hahn visited.
Yes. They were very gracious and spent a great deal of time walking the footpaths, while observing and enjoying the tranquil surroundings. I would have offered them a drink, but drinking is prohibited on park property.
You seem a little bitter about the past.
I am in a twelve step program and have made progress with the help of friends and volunteers. To your question though, yes I am. The tennis court is named after Edwin Decker as a tribute to the long-time park department commissioner. I want to know if the graffiti on the court is part of that tribute?
Things You Need to Know About Kern Park to Make it Through Your Day
* Kern Park is named for Herbert Kern a member of the city’s Board of Park Commissioners for 28 years
* Kern Park is two words with 8 letters between the words
* The park is 24 acres which is 97,124.5541 square meters or 32 football fields in length
News Desk Board member to be Honored by New Park
Hartford Courant 25 June 1970: pg 31A
News Desk Council to View Park Plans
Hartford Courant 02 Sep. 1975: pg 58A
News Desk Bristol Parks Official Has His Day at Court
Hartford Courant 05 Nov. 1977: 21A
Lattimer, Elaine J. Residents Seek End to Damage At Kern Park
Hartford Courant 04 May. 1979: W58
Howard, Susan Bristol Pledges Repairs to Park
Hartford Courant 20 Jun. 1979: pg. 17B
News Desk Kern Park Work in Progress
Hartford Courant 23 Oct. 1979: W24
Pach, Peter B. Bristol Park Falls Victim to Vandals
Hartford Courant 19 Jun. 1986 BE2
News Desk Kern Park Intact
Hartford Courant 9 Jan. 2004 A8
Stacom, Don Residents Seek Protection for Park
Hartford Courant 29 Jun. 2005: B2
Stacom, Don Kern Park Efforts Resume
Hartford Courant 08 Dec. 2006: B3