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June 14, 2021

Council, planners weigh options for size of city parks

The city council and the planning commission have revisited their debate about the size of Hollister parks.
Officials with the city and county recently held a special joint meeting to talk parks, among other items. At issue was the problem of adopting small, one-acre pocket parks instead of more comprehensive five-acre parks into the parks master plan.
“The mayor has mentioned several times that pocket parks are community parks and benefit the community as a whole,” said interim City Manager Bill Avera.
But he said the reason the council recently denied a request to build a pocket park was because of maintenance costs.
“We eliminated pocket parks in favor of five-acre parks,” he said.
The city currently maintains 10 parks, including joint-use facility parks with the school system, or co-op parks.
“Schools are struggling with the cleanup (of the parks),” said Commissioner Carol Lenoir at the meeting.
Avera said while the relationship with the city and schools is successful, the school system is trying to get the city to help cleanup in order to keep costs down, including cleaning indoor park facilities such as gyms.
The conversation then broadened to parks’ general impacts on the community.
“If we look at a neighborhood, what do families want? They have little ones. They want to take them to the park,” said Mayor Ignacio Velazquez.
He said he thinks building smaller parks closer to people’s homes is a “great benefit” to the city.
“To be able to take your kids to a park a quarter-mile away is a great benefit to the city,” he said.
The problem is not the need to build new parks – it’s the maintenance of the parks that is the issue, said Councilman Victor Gomez.
“Parks are great for a neighborhood, but we have to understand parks have downsides,” he said.
He said he has found needles, condoms and joints in city parks.
Lenoir said the parks need “park guys” as well as policemen.
“You don’t do our children any justice by putting police on them all the time,” Lenoir cautioned.
“We have to find that balance,” Gomez added.
Councilman Robert Scattini suggested the city use prisoners to do the maintenance at the parks.
“That’s something we can continue to explore,” said Avera.
The mayor suggested that building and maintaining nice parks was important to draw people into the community.
“If we’re going to bring tourists here … we need to fix these areas up and keep them maintained,” he said.
Commissioner Greg Harvey reflected those remarks.
“Tourism is going to help pay for a lot of this stuff,” he said.
The mayor said the city should look toward working with the schools and county on a park plans in order to save money due to overlap in the parks.
The mayor also suggested the city should look at incorporating dog parks into current parks or expanding the master plan to include dog parks in the future.
“We also need to make sure our parks are busy,” he said.
Gomez said the city of San Jose has incorporated dog parks into its master plan.
“Every family has a dog, or every dog has a family,” he said.

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