Holmes says residents surrounding Franklin Park deserve respect — and quiet 

AT WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S virtual community meeting about the plague of dirt bikes and all-night parties overtaking parts of Franklin Park in Boston, ideas for what to do about it ranged from speed bumps to a set-aside area for motor bikers to ride in the park. City Councilor Julia Mejia called for bringing those riding the dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles into the conversation, and others commented about the importance of not “criminalizing Black and brown youth.” 

State Rep. Russell Holmes, whose district includes a chunk of the park and surrounding Dorchester neighborhoods, said he has little patience for any proposed solutions that don’t include a clear intention to get the illegally operated motor bikes out of the park — and off city streets — and shut down the parties that involve bringing in massive speakers that rattle windows in homes as far as a mile away. 

There was talk at the online meeting of forming a task force to address the issues, but Holmes says his constituents want action, not more talk. 

Immediately after the Franklin Park meeting, Holmes attended two area neighborhood association meetings Wednesday night — in Codman Square and the Erie-Ellington streets area — where he said the sentiment from residents was clear. “There was not very much thought around, oh, we should be creating spaces for people to ride motorbikes,” he said. “What I heard was similar frustration — both groups were saying, no way do we want another summer of fireworks the way they were last summer, these parties, and motorbikes. They have to end.” 

At 527 acres, Franklin Park is the largest greenspace in the city’s park system and sits at the  southern end of the string of parkland designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. But what has long been an nature-filled oasis from the noise and bustle of the city has lately turned into a loud and lawless speedway, with scores of motorbikes racing across its terrain, unsettling park goers as well animals who live in the Franklin Park Zoo, John Linehan, the zoo director, said during Wednesday’s meeting. 

At the meeting, Holmes recounted his own brush with dirt bike riders, describing a frightening episode in which he was recently surrounded by off-road dirt bikes and ATVs while in his car leaving the park’s golf course. 

“Enough is enough,” he said in an interview on Thursday. 

The challenges facing policing in minority communities, he said, were keenly illustrated by an episode in his district last summer. Amid heightened tensions nationally between Black communities and police following the killing of George Floyd, Boston police decided not to try to break up an all-night party, complete with oversize speakers, at Harambee Park, which sits along Talbot Avenue not far from Franklin Park. While police explained that they did not want to risk setting off a confrontation with a huge crowd, Holmes said residents of the area — who were kept up all night — told him they thought the police were intentionally allowing the disruption to go on all night to show those calling for a reduced police presence in the community what that could lead to. 

“With the Black Lives Matter movement and all the things happening between police and the community, I hear folks say we need to figure out what the right solution is,” said the African-American lawmaker. But Holmes — who helped lead the push last year for legislation providing for decertification of police for misconduct — said any solution needs to also include regard for equity for Black residents who are fed up with the “lawlessness” of activity that he describes as “the wild, wild West.”

“We deserve quality of life like everyone else,” he said. “What Brookline gets and what West Roxbury gets — we deserve the same.” 



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