When people talk about park access, they usually are referring to whether or not people have a park near their homes.
In the case of the Jackie Tatum Harvard Recreation Center, you have a great park with some great new facilities in South L.A. — a traditionally park-poor area — but it isn’t that easy to access.
The reasons for this are many.
The park, located at 62nd and Denker and has traditionally been a hangout of the Harvard Park Brims (Bloods) sets that run in the area.
As HPB territory is surrounded on all four sides by Crip sets, it has historically been somewhat embattled. Long-time residents all have stories of how active the area and, in particular, the park used to be, both as a place for gang members to party and where daytime shootings were not out of the ordinary.
While things have gotten better of late, gang members can still limit park access; they apparently even temporarily chased out workers putting in the new skate park there just a few years ago. And, the fact that it is a known gang hangout endangers non-gang members, too. In 2012, Patrick Carruthers, a beloved nineteen-year-old park volunteer with a learning disability was shot in the back and killed in a middle-of-the-day walk-up while listening to music on a picnic bench.
Some attempts to manage the problem have been made with the (overdue) installation of cameras around the park last year that are monitored by the LAPD’s 77th Division. But, budget cuts have hurt the ability of parks in lower-income neighborhoods like this one to fill staff positions and offer classes to the community that might help keep youth engaged in healthy activities and out of trouble. And, because many in the area struggle financially, the park lacks the ability to charge fees for programs to cover some of their costs the way one in a wealthier community might be able to do.
The other access issues should be more easily (and are long overdue to be) fixed.
While it may have nice tennis courts, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, an awesome water slide and aquatic center, several playing fields, beach volleyball pits, a playground for kids, and even horseshoe toss pits, if you’re disabled, pushing kids in a stroller, or just want to take a stroll around the park, you’re out of luck.
Somehow, the park has gone all this time without having sidewalks on three sides. Read more…