Summer does not officially arrive until June 21. Regardless, we are already having periods of very nice weather, such that people are starting to have picnics and other activities in our neighborhood parks. The city has 13 parks, with three more in the planning stages (awaiting an increase in revenues to cover the costs of maintaining them). Ceres parks total approximately 200 acres and, unbelievably, just three full time employees and several part-time personnel maintain them. I applaud these employees for accomplishing the difficult task of keeping our parks in good condition, which includes far more than just mowing the grass.
High fuel prices and the poor economy have put a damper on peoples' ability to travel. The population is also increasing, so local community parks are seeing increased usage. Moreover, along with that usage, we face the challenge of keeping the parks clean and in good repair. With the limited staff we have, it is critical that park users contribute in a big way towards keeping these parks in their best possible condition. It requires everyone to treat them as the gems that they are.
Littering and alcohol consumption are the biggest problems. Alcohol is specifically prohibited from Ceres parks; however, in some limited instances, the police chief has the authority to grant an exception permit to non-profit organizations. Most communities have the same restrictions because alcohol is a common denominator in fights and shootings. The problem of littering is easy to solve. Of course, using the garbage cans is necessary, but the city asks that if you see litter, take a few seconds and pick it up. Out-of-control littering starts with just a few pieces of trash. If we all pitch in, our parks can remain pristine.
Vandalism of bathrooms and graffiti should be promptly reported to the police. If you have suspect information, the police will gladly investigate to find the responsible persons.
Conflicts and competition for picnic tables and other park facilities can be avoided by reserving space. Ceres park rental information is available online at http://www.ci.ceres.ca.us/3062.html. If there is a conflict, rather than engaging in a confrontation, it is best to call the non-emergency police phone number. The police department usually has a reservation list on hand to verify who has the right to use a given picnic site.
Loud music (or other forms of amplified sound) that disturbs others is also prohibited. It is a mistake to assume that other people using the park have your same taste in music.
Another nasty problem is that of dog feces in parks. Pets should be on a leash, and it is important to clean up after your pet. It is always upsetting to have to deal with dog droppings where kids play and other activities take place.
Some final things to remember about parks are that cars may only be driven or parked in areas designated for vehicles. In addition, many kids are likely to be in and around the park. When driving near a park, be extra cautious and alert for kids running into the street or from between parked cars.
City parks, especially those that are clean and safe, are true community assets. Let us all work together to keep them that way.