(July 16, 2005) -- Grassroots activists in Better Balance for LB, which launched a hard-edgged campaign last October to draw attention to law-flouting nuisance activities in and around 14th St. Park, and 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, are both praising city management's announcement (released late Friday July 15) that two sections of the Park (a former street median on 14th St.) between Cedar and Chestnut, and Cedar and Pacific will receive a new fence.
The announcement is a big deal...because it will effectively expand playground areas from small, fenced off enclaves to encompass the entire grass area.
A release, emailed by the Public Information Office in the City Manager's office, also says LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Marine's intends "to provide additional play items and picnic tables at the Cedar and Pacific location to enable mothers to play and sit with their children in an area designated as the 'Kids Zone.'"
BBLB said in an emailed release that its leaders and 14th St. Park community members met with Parks & Rec. Director Phil Hester on July 13. City Hall's release said Councilwoman Lowenthal met with neighborhood representatives to get their feedback on the planned fencing on July 13th. and suggested the plan to install a fence around two sections of the park as part of her "on-going effort to improve the Washington Neighborhood."
BBLB's release said all attending the July 13 meeting were in agreement on proposed upgrades. "All improvements are designed to encourage neighborhood involvement in a park which has been controlled by drug dealers/users and others whose behavior has frightened the families from enjoying their greenspace," BBLB said in its release. "We thank Phil Hester and his staff for partnering with us on 'taking back this park'," said Better Balance for LB co-organizer Jane Kelleher in the release.
Councilwoman Lowenthal said in City Hall's release, "Increasing recreation services at 14th Street Park has been a very high priority for me for the last four years...PRM [Parks, Recreation & Marine] staff and LBPD have been tremendously responsive to the needs of neighborhood young people and their families. I want to thank them for their speedy response to my request for additional fencing so neighborhood children can enhance their soccer skills without running into busy streets to retrieve balls. I want to also acknowledge those who have provided input and support for this proposal, and who have worked so hard to improve their neighborhood. We look forward to a ribbon-cutting in the next four-to-six weeks when the fencing is completed."
The City Hall release added, "Through another request by Councilwoman Lowenthal, PRM staff have made several improvements at 14th Street Park including an upgrade to the lights, trimming of trees, upgrading and replacing signage, and the removal of an old container that had previously been used for a biking program."
In November and December 2004, LBReport.com attended two of the early monthly picnics for 14th St. area residents, launched by Better Balance for LB. On December 19 LBReport.com published a news/perspective piece ("Awakening A Sleeping Giant: LB Activists Vow To Empower Nuisance & Crime-Impacted Neighborhood And Hold City Hall Accountable") which cited reports by neighborhood residents of chronic problems in and around the park.
In January 2005, Councilwoman Lowenthal agendized a request for a city management update on the 14th St. Park master plan.
In April 2005, multiple City Hall agencies agreed to a coordinated approach to conditions in the area...an arrangement one BBLB told us she'd "trust but verify."
In May 2005, Councilwoman Lowenthal announced closures of 14th Park at dusk as part of a pilot program to increase community safety.
BBLB members spread news of City Hall's newly announced improvements at the group's previously-scheduled monthly 14th St. picnic today (July 16). "People were very pleased to hear the news," Ms. Kelleher said, adding "There were lots of kids in the park."