Playgrounds, parks under attack, city vigilance needed

Parks are for people, playgrounds are for kids. It’s important
to make that little distinction, because while kids can easily use
parks, playgrounds aren’t the place for adults unless they’re
accompanying children.
Parks are for people, playgrounds are for kids. It’s important to make that little distinction, because while kids can easily use parks, playgrounds aren’t the place for adults unless they’re accompanying children.

I first noticed this at Miller Park, where adults were sitting without kids at the picnic tables inside the fenced playground area. I never minded anyone in the larger park itself, but it seemed odd to see people within the clearly-defined boundaries of the playground. These adults didn’t look like safe companions to share the turf with.

The first time, I wheeled the stroller around and went home. The second time it happened – in the same week – I called the police. I was tired of denying my tearful child her chance to play in an environment that, after all, was designed for her.

The police call didn’t go well … the dispatcher’s tone of voice and line of questioning made it clear I was supposed to just go in there and have my child play regardless of who else was there, and regardless of the dangerous things that had recently taken place (this was not long after someone was raped in the men’s bathroom).

I decided Miller Park wasn’t the place for us and began frequenting different playgrounds. Recently, I decided to ask other moms about their experiences, so we could compare notes. Here are some of the results.

– Las Animas Park: One mom reported that for her first visit, she sat in an idling car to observe the park. She said, “I noticed two men come and go from the restroom. One washed some blankets and clothes in the sink and was laying them on the bushes next to their vehicle; the other was doing something in the trunk. It seemed odd. Then another man walked up to their vehicle, and something transpired that caused yelling … That is not an easy thing to explain to a screaming preschooler who doesn’t understand why we are at a new, fun park and are suddenly leaving. I haven’t returned save for a birthday party and made sure my husband was with us.”

Gilroy mom Diana Tupper said this park “tends to have older teenagers that like to hang out on the playground equipment. They cuss up a storm right in front of all the children and sometimes roughhouse with each other and run into the little kids. I have also noticed groups of kids smoking marijuana at the handball courts.”

– Christmas Hill Park: The sad headlines of last month are enough, but I can add that sometimes the vibe on this playground just doesn’t feel right, especially if you must walk through the picnic area to use the bathrooms.

– Gilroy Sports Park: One mom told me she found needles in between the two playgrounds. Now each time she goes, she scans for needles.

Another mom said a few years ago, children were playing at the park when a farmer, dressed in a white suit with respirator, jumped on his tractor and began spraying pesticides. “He came right up to the fence that runs right next to the kids’ play structure. We quickly packed up and left. One mom called the city and was told that the chemicals were nothing to be too worried about, but still, I’ve often wondered about how much residue coats the play structure over there,” she said.

Yet a third anonymous mom commented on that same spraying episode. “I contacted the city and was told it was the equivalent of Round Up and would now only be sprayed before 5 a.m. to avoid our children running to the fence to see the tractor. They also sent out a pressure washer to clean the equipment as I told them it was sticky after the last spraying,” she said.

Another local mom, Wendy Gonzales, said she is concerned about maintenance trucks on the utility road going above a residential speed limit, and bikes, too. “To put it into perspective,” she said, “it’s like having a road next to the playground where it’s even easier to put your guard down. My only solution to this would be speed bumps and signs to walk your bikes past the playground.”

– Forest Street Park: A mom reports, “We found a piece of a glass pipe, condoms and clothing in the sand at that park only two months ago so now we don’t go anymore.”

– Los Arroyos Park: This from an anonymous mom: “I haven’t been to the park off Hirasaki in over three years as the smell of cat urine in the sand box was overwhelming. It was so bad we had to wash the sand buckets as our car started to smell.”

– Sunrise Park: Gilroy mother of two Kathy Rhee reports, “The cat poop in the sand box at Sunrise is a real health hazard …”

Gilroy’s lucky to have a great array of parks with play areas. It’s imperative that we adopt better vigilance and maintenance to keep them safe.

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