PES First Graders Enjoy Animal Visit

by Karen Plumley

Dave Erler (senior naturalist) displays the magnificent red-tailed hawk in front of a group of awed Pelham first graders.

Naturalists and some pretty neat non-human critters visited a group of lucky first graders at Pelham Elementary School on Thursday, March 12.  Dave Erler (senior naturalist from Squam Lakes Natural Science Center) and his assistant Marissa Bialek (intern from Plymouth) gave a science presentation that covered characteristics of some of the common animals known to the area, such as snakes, turtles, and birds.

During the in-house field trip, students were treated to a slideshow, an entertaining “turtle and snake” song, skeleton models, and some real live, not-so-furry friends.  The well-behaved children could hardly contain their enthusiasm when Erler nonchalantly pulled a 6-foot-long boa constrictor out of its cooler.  But the main attraction of the day was a feathery resident of the science center, the red-tailed hawk.  According to Erler, it is believed that birds such as the hawk are the only living descendents of the dinosaur.  This particular bird became a member of Squam Lakes 15 years ago after he crashed into a window and almost died of his injuries.  To this day, his eyesight is still very poor.

Erler talked to students about habitats, food supply, and other interesting tidbits of snakes and turtles during the hour-long field trip.  Then students were split into groups and allowed to visit with and touch the live animals.  It surprised some to know that the boa constrictor and, in fact, all snakes, although shiny, are not slimy.  It also was a shock for students to find out that the common boa on display was not the largest of all snakes.

“Why is he so big, though?” one first grade boy curiously asked.

“Snakes, unlike humans, never stop growing throughout their entire lives.  And girl snakes get even bigger!,” Erler enthused.

Children learned many interesting things about these fascinating creatures.

Erler left the youngsters with an important warning about keeping turtles as pets.

“If you have a pet store turtle, never let it go into the wild.  They contain natural parasites and diseases that can wipe out all the other turtles in the area.”

First graders meet and greet the intimidating but friendly boa constrictor.

Student volunteer Zack Masiello holds a turtle while first graders gently pat it.

St. Patrick’s Lenten Fish Fries Reel in the Crowds

by Karen Plumley

Student volunteers seen serving up the fish are: Dalton Pellitier, 11 (Windham Center School), Jessica Audy, 14 (Pelham Memorial), and Anthony Bedard, 10 (Windham Center School).

Although the price of the St. Patrick Parish fish fries went up significantly this year, it did not appreciatively lessen the demand and popularity for the Lenten Friday tradition.  Many residents of Pelham and surrounding areas showed up for the Friday the 13th Fish Fry, the fourth such feast hosted by St. Pat’s so far this season.

But why fish?  The Catholic Church is credited with making the Lenten fish fry a tradition to build a strong community during a time of sacrifice and abstinence from meat.  According to Bishop Ken Untener, author of the Catholic series The Little Black Book [MI:  Diocese of Saginaw, 2008], there are two theories that may point to the beginnings of the fish fry tradition.  One is that German Catholic immigrants in Wisconsin in the mid 1800s would serve fish they caught from the surrounding great lakes on Fridays.  Others believe that the fish fry began after soldiers, with a newly discovered taste for British fish and chips, returned from World War I.

Whatever the case may be, there is little doubt that fish fries are very popular in Pelham.  At $9 per plate ($8 for children), guests both young and old enjoyed generous portions of french fries, onion rings, coleslaw, bread, and a huge piece of fried white fish that would fill up a starving pirate.  Fish chowder ($2) and drinks ($1) were also available at the dinner.

With Lent at its halfway point, there is still time to attend a fish fry.  There will be a feast held every Friday until Easter (excluding Good Friday) from 4 until 7 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Hall.  Call St. Patrick Parish at 635-3525 for more information and mass schedules.

The fish fry guest line is already impressive at promptly 4 p.m.

Dee Grigas of Pelham enjoys the quality time with her granddaughter, 6-year-old Rachael Bradstreet.

New Policy Adopted for Skateboard Park

by Barbara O’Brien

Spring has officially arrived and with it comes the desire to get outdoors and have some good, clean fun in the fresh air.  It is with this concept in mind that Windham officials have compiled a new policy regulating the use of the town-owned skateboard park, which is located in Griffin Park.

There have been numerous safety and behavior issues with the skateboard park since it opened several years ago.  There have even been occasions when the skateboard park was temporarily closed due to vandalism and excessive littering.  Town officials have even considered shutting down the skateboard park permanently.

According to Windham Recreation Coordinator Cheryl Haas, police officers have had to be called to the park on numerous occasions to enforce rules and regulations.  Police have been called by residents, skateboard park users, and town employees on a much too frequent basis, Haas said.

To prevent similar circumstances from occurring again this year, Haas and members of the Windham Recreation Committee prepared a new and more stringent policy, one which selectmen unanimously approved during their board meeting on Monday, March 9.  The recommendations included in the now-adopted policy were written “to help foster an environment of safety, cleanliness, respect, and access at the Windham Skate Park,” Haas said.

In a review of past incidents, recreation committee members described behaviors which have caused them to establish stricter rules and associated penalties.  Those rules include the mandated wearing of helmets, the picking up of trash and placing it in appropriate receptacles for disposal, a ban on swearing, and no admittance to the skateboard park when it is wet.  There are also restrictions on what type of “vehicles” are allowed inside the park, as well as a ban on riding on common areas, such as walkways, in the multi-purpose building or on the basketball or tennis courts.

Haas said that a substantial number of skateboard park users don’t wear safety helmets unless asked repeatedly to do so.  In many cases, she said, the refusal or negative attitude toward police or town representatives can be described as “disrespectful, rude, or hostile.”  The swearing and profanity coming from the park has generated many complaints, she added.  The trash and littering has reached a point that borders on unsanitary.  “The safety of all users is seriously compromised by this debris in travel areas,” Haas explained.

Graffiti has also been on the increase, Haas said, resulting in maintenance employees having to spend time painting over the profanity.  Constant skateboarding on the basketball courts and nearby benches is also taking its toll in wear and tear.

Last summer’s addition of park rangers helped to improve the situation somewhat, Haas said, but these town employees also have other duties and cannot spend all their time monitoring the skateboard park.  “Frequently, the helmets would come off as soon as the park rangers left the facility,” she said.  “It’s a headache,” Haas said of the skateboard park.  “We need to do something.”  “The big thing is getting helmets on heads,” she added.

Under the new policy, all users must exhibit a Windham Skate Park Permit on their helmets.  Windham residents can obtain these permit stickers at the town clerk’s office during regular business hours or from the recreation coordinator, by appointment, after filling out an application.  Each Windham resident obtaining a helmet permit will also be issued a visitor’s permit to be used by a guest accompanying that resident.  For those under the age of 18, parents must co-sign applications.  Applications for helmet stickers are also available online.  There is no charge for these stickers.

Non-residents wanting to use the skate park must fill out an application on an annual basis and also complete a training session.  Training sessions will be scheduled according to need, with more being held early in the season.  Generally, the Windham Skate Park opens for the season during April, weather permitting.  Upon completion of the training session, non-residents would be issued a different color helmet sticker from those being issued to residents.

As for violations, based on discussions with Windham Police Chief Gerald Lewis, they will be meted out on an escalating basis.  The first violation (for failure to wear a helmet or conduct issues), the user will receive a warning.  The second violation will result in removal of the violator from the park for the remainder of that day.  The third violation will result in removal of the offender for one week.  The fourth violation will result in a loss of park privileges for 30 days.  And the fifth violation will result in the user losing all park privileges for the remainder of the season.  For more serious violations, the consequences can be enhanced, Haas said.  The violation of rules is to be addressed only by a Windham Police Officer, a park ranger, or the recreation coordinator.  Residents observing any violations are encouraged to contact one of the enforcing entities and not to confront any offenders personally.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he is totally in favor of the new policy but does have concerns about enforcement.  He suggested installing a video camera on-site.  Selectman Bruce Breton said he felt it would be a simple task to install video equipment.  “It’s just a matter of wiring,” Breton said, adding that he also feels additional lighting for nighttime security is a good idea.  Selectman Galen Stearns, who has frequently said he feels the park should be done away with permanently, said he’s “willing to try” the new policy.  Stearns said he would prefer to see violators kicked out of the park for an entire season after just three problems, not five, as now stipulated.

Dennis Senibaldi, who is chairman of the recreation committee, said, “I know it will be difficult to enforce, but I’m willing to give it a try.”  Senibaldi also said he feels installing a video camera will be a deterrent to misconduct.

According to Breton, approximately 400 to 600 kids use the skateboard park per day during the summertime.  Senibaldi said only about five percent of those using the skateboard park are the ones causing problems.  “Creating a safe and respectful environment for all the children is paramount,” Haas told selectmen.  “We’re hoping that those using the skate park will begin to take responsibility for their own actions.”

New Town Planner Hired in Windham

by Barbara O’Brien

A position which has been vacant in the Town of Windham for an extensive period of time has now been filled.  As of Monday, March 9, the job of Town Planner is held by Laura Scott.

Scott holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and comes to Windham with an extensive background in community planning and development.  Previously, Scott served as the Director of Planning and Community Development in the Town of Pembroke, New Hampshire.  Most recently, however, she worked as a community development consultant in Henniker, New Hampshire.

According to Windham Assistant Town Administrator Dana Call, Scott’s duties as Town Planner include code enforcement issues, as well as processing and reviewing all applications for land development.  Call said she and Town Administrator David Sullivan are thrilled to have Scott as part of the team and are looking forward to working with her.

As for the newly-created position of Community Development Director, a job created earlier this year, the hiring process is still in progress and no decision has yet been made.  Interviews for the position have been conducted, Call said.

Former Planning and Development Director Al Turner tendered his resignation earlier this month and will be leaving town employment on March 30.  Turner worked for the Town of Windham for approximately 12 years.  His job was eliminated when the new Community Development Director position was approved by selectmen.  Turner was offered the opportunity to apply for the new job but declined to do so.  He was also offered the job of Town Planner, an opportunity which he also turned down.

New Town Road Accepted

by Barbara O’Brien

During their board meeting on Monday, March 9, Windham Selectmen voted 4 to 0 to accept Ryan Farm Road as a town roadway.  Voting in favor of the acceptance were selectmen Galen Stearns, Dennis Senibaldi, Roger Hohenberger, and Bruce Breton.  Selectman Charles McMahon did not attend the March 9 meeting.

Ryan Farm Road is located in the Heritage Acres housing development.  Assistant Town Administrator Dana Call said that all the paperwork pertaining to the road was in order and that a final inspection had been done by Windham Highway Agent Jack McCartney.

Also during the meeting a second motion pertaining to Ryan Farm Road was made.  Selectman Breton proposed that the speed limit be set at 25 mph rather than the state-allowed 35 mph for residential roads.  Breton, who has made similar motions multiple times in the past, said he feels lowering the speed limit “helps to improve safety in these neighborhoods.”  Selectmen approved the motion to set the speed limit at 25 mph by a vote of 3 to 1.  Selectmen Roger Hohenberger, Bruce Breton, and Dennis Senibaldi voted in favor of the reduced speed limit.  Selectman Galen Stearns was opposed.

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