trails diverge at springside park (copy)

The volunteer group Friends of Springside Park is considering suspending its annual cleanups of the city's largest park, after a member suffered a hand injury from a hypodermic needle during the group's annual fall cleanup Oct. 9. 

PITTSFIELD — From afar, the item looked like a plastic bag filled with trash. But, the contents actually were dangerous — a bunch of hypodermic needles.

A member of the Friends of Springside Park picked up the bag during the group’s annual fall cleanup Oct. 9 and received a puncture wound to the hand. The injury wasn’t serious, but the person was treated at Berkshire Medical Center, according to Friends of Springside Park President Bernie Mack.

Friends of Springside Park is considering suspending its annual park cleanups in the spring and fall.

James McGrath, Pittsfield’s park and open space manager, said city officials haven’t decided whether to suspend cleanups at Springside Park, but the city is drafting safety protocols for park cleanups. No cleanups are scheduled for the remainder of year.

Groups like the Friends of Springside Park follow their own safety protocols for park cleanups, McGrath said. Now, city officials are compiling uniform safety requirements for volunteer groups. The requirements could be unveiled as early as the next Parks Commission meeting Nov. 16, McGrath said.

McGrath said the injured volunteer underwent a “battery of tests and immunizations” after being pricked with the needle, since used needles can carry diseases. City officials were notified of the incident the day it happened.

“It was an unfortunate incident; one we take with great seriousness,” McGrath said. “We want to have these new protocols in place. ... We want to keep volunteer groups in our parks, but more importantly, to keep them safe.”

The bag the volunteer picked up contained numerous hypodermic needles, according to Mack. It was found near an abandoned campsite located in the woods above the former youth baseball field at Springside Park.

“It’s not the first time we’ve found needles, but it’s the first time they were concealed inside a bag,” Mack said. “At this particular site, there were about 50 needles on the ground about 30 feet from the abandoned campsite.”

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

Business writer

Tony Dobrowolski's main focus is on business reporting. He came to The Eagle in 1992 after previously working for newspapers in Connecticut and Montreal. He can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.