I took a walk through the park on a rainy Sunday and am sad to say it is business as usual at Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is a big city with a lot of big city problems. It is financially insolvent. The electorate is apathetic about voting. Sidewalks in the city are 20+ years, and billions of dollars, behind on maintenance.
Add to that list: a Parks and Recreation Department that has a bizarre and dysfunctional management culture – with Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles serving as a sort of poster child for the dysfunction.
The image above captures an unlicensed “boot camp” class being run in the park, with patrons running up a switchback on a hillside. The operator of the boot camp found convenient parking in the middle of the park for his SUV (ignoring both the law and the empty parking lots with 70+ empty spaces this drizzly morning). The bulky gentleman in the foreground has his pitbull running wild, unleashed.
Across the ball fields (and not in this image), one of the public bathrooms has been turned into a hobo apartment building. The gentlemen were taking advantage of the wet weather to wash their clothes in buckets outside their new home/toilets. The pipes on the bathroom sinks have been stolen so they had to wait for the rain, you understand, to get enough water to clean their skivvies. There is always a silver lining in every cloud: a missing door for one of the bathrooms was replaced by one of the men and now serves as a bonus bedroom. He had waited a few months for the Parks department to install a replacement.
A newly restored statue of Florence Nightingale was unveiled last Thursday. Twenty-five yards away a multi-million dollar refurbished walking path around the lake lacks a 4-foot strip of pavement to connect it to the rest of the park – cutting the new path off for those with strollers, wheel chairs, or non-nimble bodies.
The Lincoln Park carousel, housed in a steel-doored prison after a $500,000 restoration, is now permanently closed to the public. The nearby swimming pool, also shuttered, recently had it’s multi-million dollar capital improvement funds raided to make up for cuts in social services programs in last years city budget.
Lincoln Park, if it were in private hands, would be worth tens of millions of dollars. It is perfectly situated for all sorts of productive uses. Instead of seeing the intrinsic value of the parks it owns, the city treats this park (and many others) like a huge liability, throwing money at them to make political problems go away and never taking the time to audit or oversee what has become a crony jobs network for managers at parks and bureaucrats in city hall. I can’t imagine the metrics used by parks managers to describe conditions at Lincoln Park! Acres of lawn mown? Gopher population? There certainly aren’t patron-centric measures in use.
My walk was pleasant enough. The ducks and geese squawked as I passed by, muddy puddles were all around (perfect for splashing). I scuttled across the always dangerous Mission to get home (a street which was has recently become a little less harsh with the subtraction of a car lane and the addition of a substandard bike lane).
So, here is to better days at Lincoln Park. Share your thoughts on how to make things better at this, or any other city park, in the comment section below!