East Mountain Park
a recap by Pam Mencio



The East Mountain residents and the East Mountain Community Club of the '50's, '60's and early '70's worked very long and hard to make a leisure place for people of Waterbury to enjoy.

This is the story of how they achieved that goal in a way that can only touch on the many struggles they had and obstacles they endured before success was realized. Now history repeats itself as is evident in the following chronicle.

The Club was a formal one, with its by-laws and officers, which changed, of course, over many years, but their mission was to develop the land on the banks of the East Mountain Reservoir into a park and playground. If not for their persistence, the dream, perhaps, would not have come true.

The project was for a long time a "bone of contention, "among those who were against it for various reasons, such as, traffic hazards, preservation of natural watersheds, and preservation of natural commodity against which the city could borrow money. Other objections were the danger of unsupervised swimming, boating, hiking areas being opened to the general public.


Despite the numerous objections, the effort continued, as is evident in the Community Club newsletter of June, 1960, which contained a small clip asking all neighbors to attend a meeting at the golf course club house on June 7, 1960 @7:15 PM and later that evening to attend a Board of Works meeting at 8 PM to try to obtain the parcel of land adjoining the reservoir to make a "ball diamond".

On August 3rd of that year the land was released by the Works Board to be used by the Park Department for recreation. The Park Department disapproved of leasing the land to a private organization. The people understood that it would be a public recreation area and not limited to the East Mountain residents. It was announced that there was, however, " no money in this year's budget for development."


The years passed with no movement, until, finally, in 1972, on August 1st, a delegation of East Mountain residents with children in tow, converged on the Park Board to ask when their neighborhood would have a playground.

At that time they were informed that the project was in the hands of HUD ( a federal agency), which would decide whether or not to subsidize half the cost of the venture. HUD had been in possession of the application since the previous February. James Curtin, director of Parks and Recreation estimated the cost at $50,000.

The city stood to lose the HUD funds if the work proceeded without their approval. The delegation was assured that the park would be completed with or without HUD money and that it should be completed by the following spring. (1962). It was not until 1973 that the park finally became a reality.


The East Mountain Reservoir Park was officially dedicated and opened on July 7, 1973. The ceremony was led by EMAA president, George Dinkle. A second dedication of the ball fields was made to the late Harry Northrup, past president of the East Mountain Athletic Association.

Harry valiantly drove the effort to have the ball fields built. A stone, inscribed "Harry Northrup Atheletic Fields", was placed in the ground near the tennis courts.

Many "mountaineers" were personally and actively involved in the physical completion of the fields, namely: Richard Pagano, Armand D'Angelis and Gus, Julius and Carmen Fidanza.

The athletic coaches and teams finally had a home base. The teams had been formed in the early 1970's and had previously had to try to find other city park fields to play their games as two of the original coaches, Bob Perigard andNed Mencio ( still actively involved in neighborhood efforts) can remember.

Other parts of the park were completed earlier by city contractors: three tennis courts, the playground and basketball court. By the time the park was completed and dedicated, the Community Club, which was so instrumental in delivering the recreation area to the city, was no longer active, but their legacy has provided a place to play for everyone.


Thirty three years have passed since the park opened. Remember that the original cost was $50,000 and notice that in all those years no renovations or updates have ever been made to the park.

Many teams and coaches have come and gone; hundreds of children who grew up in the park are now middle aged and all of the equipment is worn out, rusted and literally unsafe for today's children. The coaches and teams are playing on fields that have needed care for many years.


For years the residents have been trying to get help for the park until, finally, three years ago, when the EMAA obtained $750,000 from the state for renovations that are estimated to cost at least $1,000,000. Already $150,000 has been rescinded by the state, leaving only about one half of what is need to make the park safe and operable once more.

The newly reprised Community Club, now known as the East Mountain Neighborhood Association , which was activated less that four years ago, has joined in the efforts to restore the park in trying to obtain more funding by requesting assistance through all the state representatives and senators; their members attend meetings of all the city planners and architects and invite all the city officials to monthly meetings.

The city, however, does not subsidize the project in any way. Presently the plan is, ( due to insufficient funds), to do away with some of the original gear and to add a few items that most contemporary parks have as standard equipment.

It's very interesting to note that in thirty- three years, the park has cost a total of $50,000. ( half of it HUD money). That translates into a mere$ 1,511 per year.


On Monday, July 10, 2006, a bulldozer appeared in the park. On Tuesday some trees were felled, a plastic barrier was extended across a small portion of the fields and what was left of the playground equipment was knocked to the ground.

On Wednesday, a few workers appeared in the area and more equipment was brought in and some debris was removed. In the afternoon a chance meeting with the architect revealed that only a portion of the funds originally promised is left, which will be used on sports fields and a walk path.


This apparently means that there will be no playground equipment returned to the park and no spray pool, which for the past few years, even when there was no usable playground equipment left, was used all day every day by people from all over the city.

There were noted children and adults, alike, using the spray and having some semblance of picnicking, although with not even one picnic table to use-some people brought portable tables or just used the ground. These people from all over the city always cleaned the area before leaving, placing trash in the proper receptacles. The thanks they will be getting for taking care of the city park is the loss of that which the original East Mountaineers worked so hard to get. It is impossible to understand why the children are being deprived of a safe place to play, exercise, and meet other children.


The grown children who fortunately had a playground, remember spending every summer day in the park, playing, enjoying arts and crafts and games, music and dancing under the watchful eyes of supervisors who are now, themselves, removed. It is not understandable or acceptable that no thought is any longer given to nurturing the recreational needs of the children of Waterbury.

Keep in mind that the East Mountain Park never cost the city any money, but that the city is now taking something valuable and irreplaceable from its children.