Not long ago, Hains Point was an idyllic summer playground. Fishermen threw out lines at dawn and joggers hit the road from 5 a.m. to midnight.

In the early morning, elderly golfers joined tennis players, and all day long, people waxed cars and smiled at each other.

By the time the Potomac breeze had swept away the day's humidity, families gathered to grill chicken or eat picnic style.

No more.

Today, Hains Point -- as all of East Potomac Park is informally called, though the name officially designates only the land tip -- is rapidly becoming a haven for drug users, pushers and other criminals.

The city's pretty "island" park has been transformed into a frightening place where many families don't want to bring their children and even fear for their safety after the sun sets.

While the availability and use of drugs is a growing problem throughout the country, its hold on Hains Point seems to have grown gradually over the last couple of years.

"I think the problem starts with young people who are down there drinking, and then wind up getting into narcotics," says Lt. Hugh Irwin, who heads the U.S. Park Police Drug unit. "From that people have come to identify the park as a place where they can do what they want to do."

In l983, a special plainclothes drug unit established by the Park Police reported 215 drug cases at Hains Point, and so far this year, more than 100 drug-related cases have been reported in this drug citadel.

Many other incidents, no doubt, go unreported. The casual jogger from a Southwest or Foggy Bottom apartment does not bother to report the marijuana he smells wafting through the air. Nor do visitors watching the boats in the river or the planes landing at National Airport complain about glassy-eyed people listening to loud music.

Only last Monday, two men and a woman went to the park to see the Sequoia, the former presidential yacht, and the Awakening, a sculpture located at the point's sandy tip. Suddenly two men approached the trio with guns and ordered them into a car. When they resisted, they were shot.

In an effort to reclaim the park for honest people, the Park Police have beefed up their forces and are also encouraging more families to return and use the park in larger numbers.

But that solution is a Catch-22. A family sitting on a picnic blanket by the water's edge does not want to be interrupted by somebody strolling up trying to sell them PCP or marijuana. Nor does a parent want to risk his child's safety in a drug-filled environment that could be dangerous.

These problems are magnified for many in this city's poorer neighborhoods and among the District's huge number of families headed by females who often can't afford to leave the hot city for the Maryland and Delaware beaches in summer.

So how do families begin to repossess the 327-acre paradise -- with its 21 tennis courts, Olympic-size swimming pool and 36 holes of golf?

There are several possibilities.

The police certainly have an obligation to clear the area of drug peddlers and protect people from muggings and other criminal activity.

This may require an additional allocation of funds for the summer months and during the troubled times -- weekends and evenings after 9 p.m. But it will be tax money well spent.

As individual citizens, we all have an obligation to watch the children who play around us for any indication that they might be taking drugs.

The U.S. Park Service could attract more families by instituting more recreational and artistic programs at the park, or by setting aside a particular part of it on a given day for families only.

There is one thing I would like to see at Hains Point to turn this whole sad mess around:

Mayor Barry should declare one day in the summer ahead Family Day and hold a ceremony as well as a picnic at a drug-free Hains Point. DOROTHY GILLIAM Reclaiming What's Ours

Not long ago, Hains Point was an idyllic summer playground. Fishermen threw out lines at dawn and joggers hit the road from 5 a.m. to midnight.

In the early morning, elderly golfers joined tennis players, and all day long, people waxed cars and smiled at each other.

By the time the Potomac breeze had swept away the day's humidity, families gathered to grill chicken or eat picnic style.

No more.

Today, Hains Point -- as all of East Potomac Park is informally called, though the name officially designates only the land tip -- is rapidly becoming a haven for drug users, pushers and other criminals.

The city's pretty "island" park has been transformed into a frightening place where many families don't want to bring their children and even fear for their safety after the sun sets.

While the availability and use of drugs is a growing problem throughout the country, its hold on Hains Point seems to have grown gradually over the last couple of years.

"I think the problem starts with young people who are down there drinking, and then wind up getting into narcotics," says Lt. Hugh Irwin, who heads the U.S. Park Police Drug unit. "From that people have come to identify the park as a place where they can do what they want to do."

In l983, a special plainclothes drug unit established by the Park Police reported 215 drug cases at Hains Point, and so far this year, more than 100 drug-related cases have been reported in this drug citadel.

Many other incidents, no doubt, go unreported. The casual jogger from a Southwest or Foggy Bottom apartment does not bother to report the marijuana he smells wafting through the air. Nor do visitors watching the boats in the river or the planes landing at National Airport complain about glassy-eyed people listening to loud music.

Only last Monday, two men and a woman went to the park to see the Sequoia, the former presidential yacht, and the Awakening, a sculpture located at the point's sandy tip. Suddenly two men approached the trio with guns and ordered them into a car. When they resisted, they were shot.

In an effort to reclaim the park for honest people, the Park Police have beefed up their forces and are also encouraging more families to return and use the park in larger numbers.

But that solution is a Catch-22. A family sitting on a picnic blanket by the water's edge does not want to be interrupted by somebody strolling up trying to sell them PCP or marijuana. Nor does a parent want to risk his child's safety in a drug-filled environment that could be dangerous.

These problems are magnified for many in this city's poorer neighborhoods and among the District's huge number of families headed by females who often can't afford to leave the hot city for the Maryland and Delaware beaches in summer.

So how do families begin to repossess the 327-acre paradise -- with its 21 tennis courts, Olympic-size swimming pool and 36 holes of golf?

There are several possibilities.

The police certainly have an obligation to clear the area of drug peddlers and protect people from muggings and other criminal activity.

This may require an additional allocation of funds for the summer months and during the troubled times -- weekends and evenings after 9 p.m. But it will be tax money well spent.

As individual citizens, we all have an obligation to watch the children who play around us for any indication that they might be taking drugs.

The U.S. Park Service could attract more families by instituting more recreational and artistic programs at the park, or by setting aside a particular part of it on a given day for families only.

There is one thing I would like to see at Hains Point to turn this whole sad mess around:

Mayor Barry should declare one day in the summer ahead Family Day and hold a ceremony as well as a picnic at a drug-free Hains Point.