- RL Intern
By Joseph Baroud, Editorial Intern
Alienated residents furiously blasted the Recreation and Parks Department at a recent the Central Neighborhood Council meeting for the state of disrepair at Leland Park.
Residents near to Leland Park urged the city to begin reviving the old land site at a local neighborhood council meeting. The city listened, but the neighborhood can only hope that the is able to keep up with the maintenance.
Deborah and Trevor Rouser, local residents speaking on behalf of homeowners whose homes abuts the park, complained about the park’s neglect. They charged that the park has become a magnet for drug use, graffiti and squatters. And, as a result, has become a nuisance to the neighborhood.
“It looks horrible,” Deborah Rouser said. “It looks completely abandoned. It’s dirt and landslides. I don’t even think some of the streetlights work.”
Recreation and Parks’ work crews began working on Leland Park after Labor Day weekend. Region Superintendent Mark Mariscal said the department’s emphasis would be on safety improvements such as lighting and the removal of visual obstructions like oversized trees. He also said the restrooms will be cleaned and repaired.
Recreation and Parks installed a playground at the park in 2010 for younger children to use. Three years later, graffiti covers almost every inch of the structure. The arrangement built for children now shows an image unfit for them.
Recreation and Parks officials blamed their inability to maintain Los Angeles’ parks on the city’s budget cuts, which led to staff reductions. They stationed an employee at the park to take care of daily maintenance, but had to repeal him for budgeting reasons. Rouser said the park began rapidly deteriorating once it had lost its overseer.
Harbor Division of the Los Angeles Police Department vowed to increase their presence at the park following the community criticism during the Neighborhood Council meeting.
Despite the problems residents brought up during the council meeting, Los Angeles County Recreation and Parks Pacific Region Mark Mariscal, believes the park has received a great deal of attention from Harbor Division.
“I would say the police are very committed,” Mariscal said. “[Comdr. Nancy] Lauer has been very receptive.”
Rouser was also pleased with the police department’s newfound patrolling effort. She knows there are crimes being committed that are more serious and require greater attention, but is grateful Harbor Division is allocating the time it had promised.
“They come relatively quick,” Rouser said about the police department’s reaction to neighbor’s calls. “Some of our calls aren’t high priority. So, I’ve been impressed with their response time.”
Attempts to contact Senior Lead Officer Art Ashcraft for this story were made, but he didn’t get a return call before we went to press.
Mariscal hopes to also renovate the baseball field, which used to draw families and hosted games.
Mariscal is seeking a $100,000 grant from the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation for the park’s renovation and is hoping to enlist local neighborhood council support to get the funding.
Mariscal knows it’s up to neighbors to fill the void and help complete the efforts.
“[We’d like] to start a community process and hold local meetings with the community where they can share ideas,” Mariscal said.
Residents are continually urged to voice their concerns or share a solution. Community meetings will take place at the recreation center in order to give residents the opportunity to do just that.
“The Department of Recreation and Parks is trying very hard to meet the concerns of community members in the neighborhood.” Mariscal said.
Rouser and Mariscal found themselves on the same page. Rouser also emphasized the importance of the community’s role in the park’s planning.
“It’s a small neighborhood. You can’t forget that we’re here.” Rouser said. “You can’t do all this stuff to the park and forget that you have neighbors 10 feet from your parking lot and five feet from your Rec. building.”
Mariscal hopes the city can provide the necessary funds if his department hits a roadblock on the path to receiving the grant, but in the meantime they’ve began working on what they can.
The community’s effort haven’t been limited to just those residents living next to the park. Clean San Pedro Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides the city with sanitation services by cleaning sidewalks and parks.
“Clean San Pedro is applying for a grant with the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation,” said Steve Kleinjan, the nonprofit’s founder. “If successful, we would patrol Leland Park for graffiti control and basic cleaning of the playground. It’s good to see the local neighbors taking such an interest in the park.”
The sights and sounds of the city’s maintenance crews at work must be a relief for the community. The park is closed temporarily for maintenance, but work crews said they’re hoping it will reopen in October.