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LOCAL VOICES: Parks and recreation a case for Compton

Part III: Broken plumbing, uneven fields, unkempt parking lots, non-working/locked restrooms, some of the problems existent at our parks  By CHRIS PETIT, Contributing Writer Recently, I took a walk to my local park and noticed something good

Part III: Broken plumbing, uneven fields, unkempt parking lots, non-working/locked restrooms, some of the problems existent at our parks

 By CHRIS PETIT, Contributing Writer

Recently, I took a walk to my local park and noticed something good happening there. At Burrell-MacDonald Park, the dilapidated bleachers are gone, and a real outfield fence is going up around the baseball diamond. I give credit where credit is due. I’m surprised and elated by the progress.

Chris Petit

Chris Petit

It goes to show how great Compton parks can be if our city leaders truly made them a priority. A place where kids and families can gather for recreation and fun. A community hub where citizens could interact with their mayor, city council and other city officials. A safe place where citizens need not worry about their security or safety. And yet we have a long way to go towards that goal.

Deferred maintenance is a term you hear a lot in Compton. All it really means is, the things we should have been doing, we haven’t been doing and that’s a shame. You can see the effects of deferred maintenance everywhere in Compton, but nowhere is it more evident than in our streets and in our parks.

Worst place to be a “Baseball Dad”

We need balance in our parks, with a fair distribution of programs for adults, children, and seniors. Far too often one group is catered to above another. For example, from July to January, football organizations take over every park with an open field. Gonzales, Burrell-MacDonald, and any park with a wide open area become overrun by football teams.

If you live near a park you can hear the sound of whistles and observe the double parking and large crowds that football brings to the neighborhood. And if they have paid for a permit to use the park, the attitude of the football coaches is, “We run this park and we own this park!”

The problem this creates is that the city is trying to run a fall baseball program at the same time. The football team doesn’t apologize to the city-sponsored baseball teams for running through their practices and running plays on the pitcher’s mound (which some of the baseball coaches maintain out of their own pocket). And well, the city-sponsored baseball teams don’t apologize to the arrogant football coaches when a line drive plunks them in the leg at a distance of 200 feet.

The point is, we can all get along and share our parks. There is room for everyone, but no one has put the foresight or wisdom into giving priority to city-sponsored teams and creating a fair distribution of our public space. It’s irresponsible to allow one group take over. And whether we are taking our parks back from gangs, football teams or pure neglect, we need to become rededicated to our public spaces.

Condition of our parks

All of Compton’s parks are not like Burrell-MacDonald Park, I praised at the beginning of this article. Broken plumbing, uneven fields, unkempt parking lots, non-working/locked restrooms, and smoking are some of the problems that exist at our parks. No walking trails or areas designated for specific activities exist. Is there anything about many of our parks that inspire you? Do they make you want to take your children there to run, walk or spend an extended amount of time in nature? I can’t answer that question for everyone, but the leaders of Compton will need to answer these and other questions that I’m sure the citizens ponder from time to time.

Here are some questions about Compton Parks that need answering: Why is South Park in the 4th District almost completely unused and abandoned? Why is Raymond Park in the 3rd District in Richland Farms always locked to the majority of Compton residents? Is Sibrie Park ever going to be usable again?

These are reasonable questions that I believe the citizens of Compton would like answered. Are parks and open space a priority in the city or not?

Here’s another concern of mine: When I interact with park staff, I get the distinct impression that they don’t feel valued. They feel powerless to make changes and give answers. I’m just guessing, I don’t know. But when I ask the staff a question and they refer me to their boss and their boss refers me to the city council and the mayor, I know there’s a problem with morale and communication

Who’s in charge? My personal interaction a few years ago with the previous director of the Department of Parks and Recreation only left me more upset than when I began. He has since moved on, but he was a man with advanced degrees who seemed to love speaking to people condescendingly, as though they had no idea what they were talking about. Good riddance!

Bt we also have some really fine and committed employees in Parks and Recreation. I’m forever grateful to the staff at my local park that allowed my son to try every sport available until he found the one he loved. These dedicated employees need to be valued and appreciated; they need their superiors to respect and empower them.

Encourage the following

  • Encourage our Park Staff . These men and women are the leaders, counselors, and coaches in our community. They deserve to be empowered to not only do their jobs but to affect change in the parks. They keep our kids safe. They should be given whatever tools they need in the performance of their responsibilities.
  • Year-round Youth Sports . Keep our kids busy all the time. My personal belief is kids who grow up together, generally don’t shoot each other. Our parks are not just about activity. Our parks play a vital role in public safety.
  • Keep Our Parks Full. A vibrant park full of people involved in activities and fellowship is less likely to attract gangs that loiter and tag surfaces with graffiti. Let’s draw the citizens to the park! Perhaps our council members should have office hours at least once a week in a local park, in addition to their monthly town halls.
  • Keep our Parks Open . Our parks should be open seven days a week — not three, not four. Our parks should be the safest places for our children to go after school or during their free time. They should feel free to play, do homework or get involved in activities with other neighborhood children.
  • Tell the Story and Spread the Word. Burrell-MacDonald Park was named after two Compton police officers who were killed in the line of duty, yet there is nothing at the park beside the nameplate that lets you know who these brave men were. Every park has a story and the community needs to know what it is.

Our parks play a huge role in our health and quality of life. We can’t afford to neglect them in this generation or the next. Let’s make parks a priority again in our city.

“You can’t tell a kid that it’s time to exercise; that’s a turn-off…you have to say ‘Let’s go to the park and have some fun.’ Then you get them to do some running, play on the swings, practice on the balance beam, and basically, get a full workout disguised as play.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Chris Petit is a homeowner in Compton.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

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