Some residents fear Dennis Chavez Park neglected by city

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Domingo Bolanso of the Clovis Parks and Recreation Department lops a branch Thursday from a pine tree in Dennis Chavez Park. Shane Cole of the Parks and Recreation Department said they plan to trim and shape all trees in the park, allowing patrons a chance to enjoy more shade this upcoming summer.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Jay Fisher says living across the street from Dennis Chavez Park when it’s in disrepair is disheartening.

Trash and tall weeds, liquor bottles, graffiti on deteriorating playground equipment and rubbish and scum along the banks of the park’s small lake are all part of what the 52-year-old resident feels is an ongoing case of neglect.

Parks and Recreation’s Interim Director Clint Bunch said 13 maintenance personnel work non-stop to care for the city’s 27 parks and areas.

Dennis Chavez Park gets the same attention all the parks get, he said.

Friday, Fisher said he complained, sending photos and a lengthy e-mail to city leaders in the hopes something would be done.

By Monday, crews were at the park mowing and covering up graffiti.

Bunch, who also serves as director of public works, said recent rain and the department’s efforts to support the Great American Cleanup last weekend led to a delay in getting to the park.

Mayor Gayla Brumfield said being without a parks and recreation director for the last couple months has added to the challenge of getting things done.

“I don’t think any parks at all are slighted. We have a lot of nice parks around the community and they need to be taken care of and maintained,” she said.

“I’m hoping that we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve got the new (Parks and Recreation Director Bill Bizzell) coming on (in May and) we do appreciate the public bringing things to our attention because it’s all of us working together that’s going to give us the quality of life that we want.”

Bunch said crews rotate through on a weekly schedule.

“It’s just a lot of work to do, especially in the rainy season. As the weeds keep coming, its hard to take care of,” he said.

But Fisher, who has lived in the neighborhood about seven years, said he worries Monday’s cleanup was just a response to quell a complaint and the park will fall to the wayside again.

“They really hopped to and scooted over here first thing Monday,” he said.

“Just like usual, they did a superficial job and they’re gone … I understand its not the city’s most favorite park (since) were down on the west side of town (but) they should be taking care of it.”

He also said graffiti is reappearing on the playground equipment.

Dennis Chavez Park is west of James Bickley Elementary on West 14th Street and is surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods.

Fisher said when the park is clean and manicured, it comes to life with families relaxing or taking their children there to play.

But left untended, it becomes desolate and empty, attracting only unwanted activities and visitors, he said.

The park’s condition has an impact on the community, he said.

“(Recently the city came through the) neighborhood and gave everybody (code compliance) notices. How is the city setting an example when you look across the street and see this nightmare?” he said.

“Just by cleaning up the neighborhood, you’d be surprised how people start taking pride and cleaning. Families want a place; they need parks.”

Bunch said in an effort to curb graffiti and illicit activity in parks, his department is working with police to have patrols increased, particularly in the summer months when warm weather drives people outdoors.

“(With) the kids and schools setting to be out, the graffiti will only be worse,” he said. “We can clean it one day and it will be back the next.”

Brumfield said the city recently created a quality of life committee that will be evaluating ways to enrich the community, including parks and recreation.