Dennis the Menace

Dear Editor:Until I met the staff from the Downey parks department, I thought the parks in Downey were here to serve the needs of people who wanted to use the parks. This seems not to be the case with Dennis the Menace Park, a small pocket park located at the end of Arrington Avenue. In contrast to virtually every other park in Downey, Dennis the Menace is blocked off by a very tall chain link fence that not only bars entry to the parking lot, but ensures that pedestrians have no access from Arrington, either. There are two pedestrian entrances via Vista del Rio Drive, but there are no signs anywhere that point to these entrances: you have to know they are there. Also, in contrast to virtually every other park in Downey, Dennis the Menace does not open until 10 a.m. on weekends and that poses a problem for families that want to bring in their supplies for (primarily) kids parties. Those who know about the pedestrian entrances on Vista del Rio can and do haul their supplies clear across the park, leaving someone to guard their tables while the main party arrives later when the park is officially open and the parking lot is available. Walking around the park early on weekend mornings, I have watched these folks hauling their supplies across the park - wondering why the parking lot isn't open and available. The parks department said the Downey Police Department wants Dennis the Menace Park locked up this way to either prevent or discourage mischief makers from being at the park. I went to the police department and was told in no uncertain terms that it does not make policy regarding opening and closing times of Downey parks. I was also told by the parks department that the neighbors on Arrington want Dennis the Menace locked up this way. So I talked to an elderly couple who not only have lived on Arrington for over 60 years but the elderly gentleman was on the original committee that decided that the space should be a park. I did not hear them voice the opinion that the park had to be as tightly locked up as it is. Two employees of the parks department met with me at the entrance to Dennis the Menace and the idea of a pedestrian entrance came up to allow people who want access to the park on weekends to haul in their supplies from Arrington. I thought that idea was a good compromise, but it has already died. The entrance to Dennis the Menace is to remain as it is - a huge chain link fence with no access on Arrington. It really does raise the question - in terms of public policy - why does this park warrant this special treatment? I have crossed the police department and neighbors off the list as to why this park is treated so differently from virtually all of the other parks in Downey. The parks department employees cited "the budget" as another reason and claimed that the park has to be staffed if it is open, but those reasons are bogus. Rio San Gabriel Park opens every day at 6 a.m. and it is not staffed until much later in the day. So what's left? The staff in the parks department. I worked for several years in county government and I know that when there is a will, there is a way. But when bureaucrats are intransigent and unwilling to expend any effort, any energy, nothing happens. And that's the sad case with Dennis the Menace Park. I heard the parks department was "monitoring" the number of cars waiting on Arrington on weekend mornings to see if people were trying to get into the parking lot. Whether or not people are waiting is not the point. The point is: Dennis the Menace Park should be as accessible to the public in the same way that other parks in Downey are. End of story. -- Muriel C. Schuerman, Downey

********** Published: May 12, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 4