I’ve been watching the makeover that the Julian C. Dixon/48th St. Park on Hoover and 48th has been undergoing for the past couple of months with some interest.
The small playground, cracked-up basketball court, and small (but well-used) fitness zone sat like disparate islands floating along the edges of a sea of poorly kept grass populated by large, incongruous boulders. All lovingly enclosed within a hideously rickety chain-link fence.
Aesthetically pleasing it was not.
When I called the parks department to see what the plans for the makeover were, Vicki Israel, the Assistant General Manager of the Partnership and Revenue Branch, assured me that a number of good things were in the works. New walking paths would be enhanced by new landscaping and lighting, fitness equipment would be repaired, and the basketball court would be refurbished, all by the end of November or early December.
It may not sound like much, but those will be very welcome improvements.
Some of the parks in South L.A. are not nearly as inviting as they could be. Take South Park (at 51st and Avalon), for example, which has a large and beautiful grove of thickly-trunked palm trees. The poor upkeep of the grounds in and around the trees and no real paths to guide walkers, however, make it more puzzling than attractive. The illicit activity the park often sees doesn’t help, either. All of which is unfortunate, as it is a site with an incredible amount of potential.
But attractiveness is not the only problem parks in the area suffer from.
Budget cutbacks means less maintenance and fewer staff. In areas where gangs have a heavy presence, fewer staff can mean that youth will feel even less safe visiting the facilities. In the case of Augustus Hawkins — a watershed park at Compton and Slauson enclosed on three sides — the absence of staff to make rounds through some of its more secluded areas worked in thieves’ favor.
A man and woman posing as a couple apparently canvassed the park, waited for staff to leave for the day, and then approached a man watching a movie on his laptop, pulled a weapon on him, and made off with his computer. The caretakers were very surprised to hear of such a thing — they rarely saw problems of that nature when staff were on hand to patrol the area.
The parks system has not always made it easy for people to get involved in improving the parks, either. In Boyle Heights, for example, when local youth from a continuation school asked if they could help beautify Hollenbeck Park and deter tagging with a community-made mural on its stage, they got very frustrated by all the hoops they were told they needed to jump through. It turned out to be easier for them to create a mobile mural that would be exhibited temporarily in the park than try to make a lasting change for the better.
While I can’t say that they will be easing up on things like permitting, it turns out the parks department is interested in getting the community involved in hearing your concerns about parks and your thoughts on how to address them so that they can improve their services. They want to know how you currently use parks in your area, what draws you to them or keeps you away, what kinds of facilities or improvements you’d like to see — Hello, edible fruit trees? Year-round programming for teens? Arts or gardening programs? More fitness equipment? — and any ideas you have about how to finance more programs in parks.
Israel suggested that people visit the parks and rec website, here, and take the brief survey that pops up. You are also invited to attend a meeting in your council district to make your case for your ideas in person. The meetings are intended to help the department determine priorities and methods to increase its operations and maintenance budget over the next five years.
Pro-park superheroes, this means you.
A few meetings have already taken place. A full list of them is available here. If you’d like to attend one in your council district, please note that the meetings begin at 6:30 and conclude at 8 p.m. For more information, you can contact Theresa Walker, email@example.com, at (213) 202-3205.
CD1 – December 4: Ramona Hall Community Center, 4580 North Figueroa Street
CD3 – December 3: Woodland Hills Recreation Center, 5858 Shoup Avenue
CD4 –December 9: Griffith Park Visitor’s Center, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
CD7 – December 10: Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, 10736 Laurel Canyon Boulevard (Pacoima)
CD8 – December 3: Algin Sutton Recreation Center, 8800 South Hoover Street
CD9 – December 12: EXPO Center, 3980 South Bill Robertson Lane
CD10 – December 4: Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, 5001 Rodeo Road
CD14 – December 2: City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Public Works Board Room
CD14 – December 3: Evergreen Recreation Center, 2844 East 2nd Street
CD15 – December 5: 109th St. Rec Center, 1464 E. 109th St.