FARMINGTON — A neglected, concealed area can lead to social ills, Piñon Hills Community Church members found. About 150 people who attend the church spent Thursday night and Saturday morning clearing bush in Civitan Park.

With chainsaws, machetes and caterpillars they cleared trees and shrub. They threw away countless beer and liquor bottles and took down makeshift inebriate shacks that surrounded the property near the lake.

The church recently decided to do one, large-scale community improvement project every year, said Keith Corley, a pastor at the church. Farmington Police told the church Civitan Park was a problem zone and police have little influence in the area because they can't penetrate the thick shrub, he said.

Ninety-one volunteers combined for 251 hours of work Saturday. And some in that group plan to finish the project.

The church has its sights on future improvement projects it will take on, but it isn't releasing its plans, Corley said.

"We are a church of action and we feel that we're called to solve problems," Corley said. "We believe that's what a church is called to do: not just make our place better, it's about making our community better. We feel its ministry."

Jeff Bowman, the director of the city Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, said the city does not routinely clean or care for the Civitan Park area near Butler Avenue.

"It's not a high priority for us because people don't really use that area," he said.


"We probably go in twice a year and clean some of the underbrush and pick up trash."

Unlike well-maintained parks, the parks department routinely receives complaints dealing with people sleeping and setting up campsites at Civitan Park, Bowman said.

"It's not an abnormal area. It's like any other brush area that we have," he said.

Near Farmington Lake and by the rivers are other heavily wooded areas where inebriates set up camp, Bowman said.

It is not uncommon for a group of community members in Farmington to help the parks department clean up an area the city cannot afford to maintain, he said.

"It really helps us out a lot. We love community groups that want to do things," he said. "It normally starts with a phone call. We take what time they have and what area we have and have them go in and clear out some brush or have them clean up something we might not get to on a routine basis."

Civitan Park sounded more like a construction site than a city park Saturday morning. Church members who work for construction companies brought in heavy equipment to haul debris. Chainsaws hummed continuously. Passersby noticed the commotion and decided to pull off and give the church a hand.

"It's a demolition project," said Stew Bush, a retired airline manager and church member. "But it's for the right reasons and certainly for the environment it's friendly. Nothing good grows when it's covered."

Ryan Boetel: