The City of Bakersfield’s recent investment in neighborhood parks is evident, with brightly colored play areas replacing older amenities (some in disrepair). My sons are well past the age of playing on swings and slides, but today I find myself in local parks more than ever. When I’m not playing pickleball on the Jastro Park courts with my friends and family, I often run around in our neighborhood parks with friends.
A robust and safe park system is an important feature of a livable community. Parks provide a place where people of all ages can play, exercise, picnic, or simply spend time enjoying each other’s company. Birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, T-ball practice and a pick-up basketball game…that’s what parks are for!
But the truth is, neighborhood parks can also be a place where bad things happen. Public safety is, of course, the primary concern and many of us have an “I remember when” story. During a first race years ago my friends and I were nearly run over by a car chasing us in our park (and my friends were later chased on foot by the same people as I was hiding on the doorstep nearby). Vandalism is another serious concern, and it’s costing the City of Bakersfield (that’s you and me) about $15,000 a month!
Investing in new, colorful play structures in our parks is a great benefit to people who use the parks for good. Painting landmark signs and adding landscaping makes it more beautiful for the neighborhood and passers-by. But unfortunately, none of this will prevent vandalism and it won’t keep our parks safe. We need to do more.
This is where the proposed new Park Ranger program comes in.
City of Bakersfield staff, led by Director of Recreation and Parks Rick Anthony, is proposing a new program that will create 18 new Park Ranger positions. The role of City Park Rangers (much like the role of their counterparts in county parks and north river parks) will be to patrol parks and deter negative behavior, assist in enforcement of code, quickly identify service and repair needs, and more. All the important steps to make our parks safer for everyone to enjoy.
This issue will be considered at the city council meeting on Wednesday evening. If you would like to weigh in, contact the City of Bakersfield and/or your local council representative.
Cheryl Scott is from Kern County and is a promoter of community, education and human connection.