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Day care's old documents, other detritus dumped in Fairmount Park

Advocates claim scofflaws are using West Fairmount Park as a dumping ground. The city says it is aware of problem and is planning to address it.

WHEN LAUREN Bornfriend went to West Fairmount Park in Parkside two weeks ago, she discovered piles of trash that had been dumped in the grass.

"What's so upsetting about it is it a sends a message to the adults and certainly the children that they're not worthy of a park that is well-maintained and clean and safe," said Bornfriend, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, an advocacy group for city parks.

Short-dumping in city parks is nothing new. It's been a problem in Philadelphia for decades, despite being illegal. What was startling about what Bornfriend found, however, is that one of the piles contained trash from My Honey's Day Care Center, including documents with children's names, addresses and telephone numbers, according to photos Bornfriend took.

An official with the North Philadelphia child-care center said she had no clue the items had been discarded in the park.

"Are you serious?" Karen Vines, director of the infant center, asked when first informed by a Daily News reporter. "They moved from Camac Street and it was a big move and I'm thinking the movers did it."

Vines said the moving company originally put the trash on the sidewalk - which drew a fine from the city - but then moved it elsewhere. She could not provide the name of the moving company.

"It wasn't like it was us because we're way over here," Vines added.

The piles, which were in a grassy area next to the tennis courts, have since been removed, but several garbage bags still dotted the park along Parkside Avenue earlier this week.

Bornfriend said she found a small pile of tires in the same area as the other piles a few days later. She thinks the dumping is spurring others to use the park as a landfill.

"Obviously, people saw what was going on in there and now [they are doing it]," Bornfriend said.

Mark Focht, first deputy commissioner of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, said short-dumping in Fairmount has been on the decline in recent years, but admitted it remains a challenge.

"We made a significant capital investment in the last couple of years to place guardrails in places where we were having short-dumping," Focht said. "The way you combat short-dumping is block access to those spots so you cannot get back into those spots."

Focht said the city plans to add a bike course in the area near the tennis courts and seal off another area near Parkside Avenue with guardrails. He said the enhancements will likely take place some time next year, but cautioned that guardrails won't eliminate the problem.

"If they're bold enough to continue to do it, at least it's easier for our staff to get to" because the trash will be next to the road, he said.