Sunday, March 2, 2008
Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center Outrage
There are many examples of District 11 residents not getting their fair share of city services and it's safe to say that of all the parts of the D11, the Ocean View, Merced Heights and Ingleside (OMI) neighborhoods get the short end of a very small stick. A case in point: "the Minnie and Lovie Ward Ocean View Recreation Center.
The rec center is a brand new replacement facility for an old and dilapidated center that sat on the site at Ocean View Park. If you happen to drive by the park, your first glance will draw you into an inviting scene, a beautiful public building, a brand new children's playground and a playfield in fairly decent shape. Take a closer look and ask a few questions and things don't look so good: the playground, though fully built is surrounded by yellow tape making it off limits to the many neighborhood kids who are just dying to play on it and the rec center has undergone a series of delays that have lasted over a year and are expected to continue through September.
It's readily apparent that the Rec and Park Department has utterly failed its responsibility to provide effective oversight. Dan Weaver, the treasurer of the OMI Neighbors in Action community groups reported to me that Rec and Park only received one bid from a contractor with an apparent checkered past and that this project was the first time that the department had ever taken on a project of this magnitude. Usually such projects are overseen by the Department of Public Works.
The latest delay stems from the shoddy installation of the new center's roof which cannot be guaranteed to be safe and leak-proof by the manufacturer. A new roof will have to be installed and the Rec and Park Dept and contractor are mired in negotiations and possible litigation to get the project finished. According to Rec and Park officials as reported by Library Commissioner and OMI activist Al Harris, new parts have to be ordered from the East Coast, a process that will take 11 weeks. Add this to the time it will take to remove the current roof and install the new one and we get an opening date of September, 2008. With all the delays that have already occurred many of us even wonder if this is possible.
Violence Prevention Services Lost
The OMI Safe Haven is a neighborhood program to provide support services and enrichment programs to youth in the neighborhood. It's one of the few programs in the OMI serving local youth and is supposed to be housed in the rec center. Combined with Inner City Youth, it's the linchpin to the city's violence prevention and youth development services in the neighborhood. The City's original plans were to have the Safe Haven programs running in the summer of 2007. But with the delay of the Rec Center, the Safe Haven is being housed off site. The program would not exist any more without the generosity of the Temple United Methodist Church which has offered its halls as a site. Still the Safe Haven lacks the gymnasium and overall space that the Ocean View Rec Center would provide to allow it to run at full capacity. Last summer was a violent one in the blocks surrounding the park. Residents fear that if the park stays closed through September of 2008, the summer will find many youth getting into the wrong kinds of activities that can hurt themselves and those around them. In the words of Terrell Henderson Safe Haven Director the kids will be left "with nothing to do and no where to go".
Rec and Park needs to take immediate responsibility to get this facility open by the summer. Anything less is unacceptable and a shame upon this city. In the next few weeks, neighborhood residents should be stepping up their efforts to have this site operational by the end of the school year.