Downtown Patterson’s North Park shade structures and concession area is getting a much needed facelift, and just in time for the annual Apricot Fiesta celebration.
Patterson’s Public Works crew could be seen toiling away this week as they began the process of an extensive cleanup routine, including an all-encompassed pressure washing, a thorough cleaning of the restrooms, and a repainting of the existing structures, canopies, and barbecue pit.
Fencing went up Thursday, May 8, to protect the area during the cleanup process, as many homeless took refuge there shortly after being exiled by local authorities from the oleanders near Highway 33. The temporary fencing has fixed the homeless concern that many residents face in wishing to utilize the park— at least for the time being.
“We want to discourage folks from spending the night in the park,” City Manager Rod Butler said, adding that a stronger enforcement of the City’s municipal code regarding sleeping in the park will commence following the weekend of the Apricot Fiesta.
Many of those who previously called the North Park shade structures their home have since taken their presence across East Las Palmas Avenue to South Park, or Veterans Park, while the cleanup takes place.
Longtime Patterson inhabitant and current homeless Albert De Leon, said he plans to re-occupy North Park once the annual Fiesta is over, regardless of the City’s intention.
“Hell yeah I plan on going back over there just to spite them,” De Leon said Monday, May 12, from a blanket in South Park, where groups of transients can be seen most any time of the day. “Jesus was homeless, too; we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re looking for work every day; we’re not trying to support our drug habits, and we kept it clean over there.”
Regardless of any efforts by the homeless to keep the North Park shade structure clean, evidence of their presence could still be witnessed by the stench of urine that wafted in the air during Monday morning’s pressure washing.
“We had to wash all kinds of [human feces] from the cracks of the cement,” public works employee Virgil Meyers explained while pruning some of the park trees. “They were basically using the trash cans as their storage units.”
Building Maintenance and Urban Forestry crews of the Public Works Department used bleach in the pressure washing unit to help sanitize the area, while trash that accumulated in the Lions Club’s barbecue pit was collected and burned at one end of the pit.
“There were all sorts of things in that fire pit, nothing that you would want to be involved with, so we threw some logs in there and poured some diesel over it and burned it all,” Meyers said.
Butler said he is aware that it will take the efforts of the community to help solve the problem in keeping the homeless from occupying North Park’s structures.
“We’ll be working with H.O.S.T., the City, Trust in Jesus Cuisine, and other current service providing agencies to get folks services and relocated,” he said.
Recent efforts to help the homeless through community service organizations such as Helping Others Sleep Tonight (H.O.S.T.) and Trust in Jesus Cuisine have also been thwarted.
H.O.S.T. house organizers were unable to secure important grant funding needed to keep their recently remodeled location at the former Foothill Manor on South Fourth Street open, despite an overwhelming amount of support for the structure.
Kurt Gross, project manager for H.O.S.T. said he didn’t believe the closing to be permanent, and is still optimistic about gaining funds in the future.
However, threats of physical abuse towards volunteers of the Trust in Jesus Cuisine, who have voluntarily fed the needy from under North Park’s shade structures for the past 11 years, have discouraged many from volunteering their services to the homeless or providing meals, said an anonymous source.
Trust in Jesus Cuisine organizers did not wish to comment on the matter, but have stopped serving hot meals in North Park for the time being. Patterson’s homeless aren’t going hungry yet though, as bagged lunches are now making their way to the needy, now gathered near the horse shoe pits and in the shaded areas of Veterans Park while cleanup work continues in North Park.
City of Patterson Building Maintenance and Urban Forestry Crews made their presence known Monday morning once they began using the pressure washer and paint sprayers for the old park structure’s facelift. The uniformed cleanup is expected to be finished a couple of days before the annual Apricot Fiesta. The fencing will come down, leaving the safety and future of the parks’ concessions area in the hands of the community at large.
When finished, the parks shade structures, like the others in the city, can be reserved for $75 for private events. With North Park’s concession stand, equipped with electrical and water utility connections, an extra $20 for water and $20 for electrical is added on for a total of $115.
Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.