MERIDEN — The park next to the St. John’s Cemetery was closed and the equipment removed earlier this month after the city ended its agreement to maintain the park.
St. John’s Church, which owns the cemetery, had an agreement that allowed the city to use the property as a park in exchange for mowing and maintenance. The formal agreement ended in 2006, but the church and city informally continued the arrangement until this year, said Chris Bourdon, the city’s director of parks and recreation.
After reviewing its liability earlier this year, the city notified church officials in April that it would be ending the arrangement.
“This year we made the determination to not continue the arrangement and informed the church in the spring,” Bourdon said in an email. “They asked us to remove the recreational items —playground, backstop etc.— there, which we did a few weeks ago.”
Church officials were blindsided by the city’s decision, said Lester Zimmerman, a member of the St. John’s Cemetery Committee. The 4.4-acre park and ballfield had been at the Bee Street site and used for school practices for decades.
“Right now, we’re trying to circle the wagons and come up with what we’re going to do,” Zimmerman said. “We have an establishment ready to hay it, but (we) can’t afford to keep mowing it on a permanant basis.”
The property is zoned for single-family homes, Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he can’t understand why the city wouldn’t want to keep the property as a park but neither the church, nor the cemetery has any need for the land. It will probably be put up for sale.
“We’re trying to predict the future,” Zimmerman said. “Right now, we don’t have the need for space. We’re just trying to do what we think is in the church’s best interest.”