By Jennifer Mendoza
The City of Lemon Grove is taking back its parks. I want to commend the mayor and my fellow city councilmembers for voting unanimously recently to add alcohol and marijuana to our ban on tobacco in all of our parks. We also changed park hours to be open from dawn to dusk year round.
We made these changes because that’s what our residents wanted, especially our children.
A few years ago, our Healthy Eating Active Living “HEAL Zone” formed a youth advisory group at the Lemon Grove Academy Middle School. One area the kids were interested in was the cleanliness and safety at our parks. The kids were concerned about their safety at Lemon Grove Park on Washington Street because of the number of people who were drinking there on a daily basis after school. That’s when the kids wanted to hang out at the park.
This precipitated HEAL doing ongoing park assessments over the past few years and my request that Institute for Public Strategies do updated park assessments in 2017. The findings were troublesome. Beer cans, empty alcohol bottles, cigarette butts, litter and evidence of marijuana smoking were found throughout the parks.
I experienced the problem first hand.
Last summer, I attended a family picnic at Lemon Grove Park. A few individuals claimed a park picnic table near where we were setting up. As the day progressed, more and more individuals showed up to hang out with this group, eventually growing to about 10-12 people.
They were not having a picnic, but passing around cans and bottles of alcohol and smoking cigarettes. As the day continued, they became more and more intoxicated and started shouting belligerent and obscene comments to our group. We took them some food, hoping that would quiet them and calm them down. But eventually our group started to drift off. This group showed no sign of breaking up their “party.”
I wondered if this was a regular occurrence and drove by the park on subsequent Saturday afternoons. I noticed that this same group was there each time to drink and smoke at the park. It wasn’t just me who noticed.
I’ve heard many complaints from constituents about the same type of activity at Kunkel Park, Berry Street Park and Promenade Park. Enough is enough.
Our parks in Lemon Grove should provide diverse opportunities for physical activity, relaxation and a space for social gatherings. They should be where kids go to play and families meet for picnics. Parks should be for community-friendly activities like movies and concerts. Lemon Grove will kick off the annual summer concerts June 29 and movies in the park will begin July 14.
One of my goals for our city is to improve our parks so that more community members, including youth, families and seniors, will be encouraged to participate in a more active lifestyle. I believe that prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana will encourage this positive activity in our community.
With the help of our recently passed ordinance, park visitors, residents, city crews and law enforcement, we can have the kind of parks that are welcoming, clean and crime-free.
Jennifer Mendoza is the mayor pro tem of the City of Lemon Grove. She was first elected to the City Council in 2014.
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