Maritime Charter students clean up Port Richmond Veterans Park

“It’s not a city park so we didn’t know who to contact,” said Hentnick. “I still don’t know who is supposed to be responsible for it. I just know that it was a park that needed to be maintained.”

Sea Cadets and Marines work to clean up the Veterans’ Park. Photo submitted by David Hentnick.

When Chief David Hentnick, a teacher at Maritime Academy Charter School who previously served in the Coast Guard for 23 years, saw the War Memorial on Richmond Street, between Ann Street and Indiana Avenue, in poor and disheveled condition, he knew he had to do something about it.

“It’s not a city park so we didn’t know who to contact,” said Hentnick. “I still don’t know who is supposed to be responsible for it. I just know that it was a park that needed to be maintained.”

This is what the park looked like prior to its cleanup. Photo submitted by David Hentnick.

Among Hentnick’s students are 20 sea cadets, students who are part of a national youth leadership development organization modeled after the Navy’s professional development system. Who better to help maintain the park than the sea cadets?

Hentnick cut the lock on the fence of the park, and with the help of the 20 sea cadets and an additional 20 active duty Coast Guard members armed with lawn mowers and weed whackers summoned by Hentnick, the park was cleaned up a short time later.

“It was uncalled for,” sea cadet Destiny Broughton, who helped with the cleanup on Nov. 1, said of the park’s condition. “I believe that veterans need to be respected more than they have been respected. As someone who plans to go into the Coast Guard, I believe that we put our lives on the line and many people do not respect us as much as we should be.”

“I believe that [the park] is a good way to honor our veterans,” said sea cadet Patrick Berk, who also helped with the cleanup. “They fought for our country, and the park is doing that.”

According to Hentnick, the sea cadets had helped maintain the park in the past with the help of another former veteran who held the key for the original lock. But the school lost contact with the veteran, and was unable to help with the cleanup. It was only then when Hentnick decided to take the park’s well-being into his own hands.

As the park was being cleaned, an employee from a PennDOT consulting firm who was in the area helping with the construction on Richmond Street spotted the group cleaning up the park.

“I’m not a veteran myself, but they’re people who sacrifice their lives for all of us,” Joseph Lowery said. “You could tell it was important to somebody who put it up, and I’d like to see it continue.”

The park as it currently stands. Photo submitted by David Hentnick.

Lowery was so moved by the group’s effort that he bought 10 pizzas for them.

“They were very appreciative,” he said.

According to Hentnick, the group plans to continue the upkeep of the park on a monthly or as-needed basis.