LULAC youths brush up on volunteerism

LULAC helped out the state park system last Saturday by painting the picket fence the surounds the jail at the San Juan Bautista Historical Park.

With state parks up and down California looking to avoid being shuttered due to budget cuts, staff and supporters have looked for creative ways to stretch their dollars and keep the tourist attractions open.

The San Juan State Historic Park, which includes the Mission Plaza and its surrounding adobe buildings, is getting a bit of a facelift through a partnership between the Plaza History Association and local youth from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Last weekend and again next month, LULAC youths donated their time to paint wooden and adobe fences surrounding the park, brightening up the park and freeing an already-stretched maintenance staff to focus on other projects.

“The Plaza History Association, which is the nonprofit association linked to the state historic park, wanted to try to include the community in assisting with park improvements,” said Eddie Guaracha, the Gavilan Sector superintendent for parks. “We’ve identified various projects that can be accomplished in the allotted time, including white-washing the adobe wall that surrounds the orchard (behind the Castro-Breen Adobe) and painting portions of the picket fence around the jailhouse lot.”

Guaracha said it is the first project of its kind in his five years on the job, though Anzar High School students did previously replace some signs in the park.

“With our reduced staff and funding, it’s something to help the budget,” he said.

The state historic park and nearby Fremont Peak have been threatened with closure in past budget cycles, but Guaracha said that at this point, both are expected to stay open.

Melinda Cable of the Plaza History Association said her group’s purpose is to “help financially where it can or extend manpower to cover the shortfalls” at the park.

The fence and wall-painting project was a “Tom Sawyer-type idea,” she said.

“It doesn’t take a lot of skill to know how to paint, and we’ve got some able-bodied young individuals who appreciate the value of community service and helping each other out,” she said. “That’s what makes a society successful.”

Cable made a presentation to LULAC students a few weeks ago, and the project was given life.

“Hopefully in the long run we can keep the momentum going with other projects being taken on,” she said. “We’re also hoping for a certain amount of interest from the public and other youth groups. In high schools around the state, community service is a requirement. I don’t think kids or instructors think of state parks as a place there would be a match.”

Having students volunteer their time to help preserve a historic resource goes beyond the aesthetic value of their work, Cable noted.

“It ends up being fun and it becomes very self-satisfying,” she said. “It gives that intrinsic sense of ‘I made a difference.’ It’s a win-win, feel good effort from which everybody gains. It isn’t just about the monetary savings.”

The painting project is expected to continue on the morning of May 19.



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