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Public is key to keeping parks attractive
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Driving to the office last Saturday, I saw that the warm weather has made our local city parks the place to be. It was a nice thing to see, as the adults and kids were having a great time, no doubt having become weary of the seemingly continuous cycle of rainstorms and winter weather. April and May typically are months when the weather can vary radically, ranging from very warm to dreary, rainy, and cold days. Weather during these months can be very hard to predict. In any event, with the temperatures reaching the mid-90s, it sure seems like we skipped spring and launched directly into a hot summer. We will have to see what the weather really holds in store for us, but in the meantime, our parks, the "gems" of our community, will be a top weekend destination for many families.

Ceres is blessed to have an abundance of clean parks that have so many recreational amenities. Our taxes pay for these city parks, so, in effect, the residents "own" these parks as shareholders of sorts. It makes sense to exercise pride of ownership and keep our parks clean and free of destruction. The majority of our parks' users take good care of these public facilities, but there are a small percentage of people who abuse them. The most common problem is littering. Tagging and carving into the tables, walls and trees happens all too often, and some people intentionally plug the toilets to cause overflows. Drug/alcohol-induced behaviors take place in the presence of children and sometimes gangs cause problems in the parks. Some people drive their vehicles into the park which causes damage and creates dangers for kids playing.

Now with park usage on the rise, we are trying to set the stage for a great summer during which everyone, especially our children, can have fun in a safe and healthy environment. We need those using the park and neighbors to be vigilant of suspicious behaviors, acts of vandalism, and be sure to report criminal activities to the police. I encourage citizens to carry cell phones and to know our local dispatch phone number (calling 911 on cell phones sometimes has delays), which is 538-5713. It is a number that should be programmed into the speed-dial feature of your phones.

The key to having safe and clean parks is early intervention. In other words, residents and the police must work together to keep problems from growing out of control. When we set the stage early in the season with a strong message of community intolerance towards crime and vandalism in our parks, the entire summer will likely go more smoothly. It is critical to stop problems in their tracks, long before they can grow into an unmanageable situation. Police will issue citations and/or make arrests for criminal acts with a "no first warning" policy.

Small efforts by large numbers of people can really make a difference. For example, when you see litter, stop and pick it up and throw it a garbage can. A littered place attracts criminals like cockroaches, so by keeping our parks clean, we can help keep the undesirables away. Playing music too loud and bringing alcoholic beverages in the park is also prohibited. Alcohol is banned from all city of Ceres parks, so violators will be cited or booked, depending on circumstances.

We are ready for citizens to fully enjoy their parks without the elements of alcohol, litter or violence. And the good news is that this is an entirely achievable goal. Police and citizens need to work together to ensure that it happens as planned.

I wish you all a safe summer.