The following letter to the editor was submitted by Wildomar resident Monty Goddard. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Patch or its employees:
Just prior to the vote in November 2012, on Measure Z, the parks
funding tax, the following letter from one of my neighbors was published in the
Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper:
”I understand the desire to support Measure Z and have family friendly parks in Wildomar. The problem is the inability to police our parks. We live across the street from one of the parks that closed. When we moved in we thought it would be great to have that lot transformed into a park. Several years later that came to fruition, then the problems started. There was drug use, littering, vandalism to our property, a break in to our garage, loud music, fights and more. The police don’t have the personnel to respond in a timely way. Since the park closed there has been peace. I know we hate looking at a fenced off park and dead grass, but it beats the alternative.”
To this neighbor’s very well written letter, I would add “after hours, late night, and early morning loud partying”. I would also add, “We now have two thirds the police force we had during the majority of time Windsong Park was last open, so law enforcement response times to issues emanating from the re-opened park will be even more abysmal.” With these additions this letter succinctly captures my concerns.
When the City parks were last open, we had two patrol deputies on all three shifts to cover a 24 hour day. Subsequent to the parks closing, a serious hit to the City’s budget, resulting from budget decisions made by the State, forced the City to reduce law enforcement staffing. We now have only one shift with two deputies assigned. The other two shifts have one deputy on duty. This staffing is for a city of 24 square miles and over 33,000 people.
The impact of these cuts was reported on by Sheriff Capt. Dave Fonteneau to the Wildomar City Council in January 2012. An average response time for a Priority III call for service, an example of which would be fighting in the park, is approximately 85 minutes, or double what it was when the parks were last open. Average response time for a Priority IV call, an example of which would be after hours; trespassing, loud noises, or partying is over 150 minutes, or more than triple what it was when the parks were last open. I have confirmed, two years later, these response times remain valid.
Bottom line is we do not have adequate law enforcement and the City does not have the general fund revenue to provide adequate law enforcement. The upcoming re-opening of the parks WILL result in more police “calls for service”. No one doubts that. Response times will increase even more.
Without a secured fence Windsong Park attracts the after–hours problems because the word is out. For all practical purpose, it is not policed.
Until such time as the City can effectively police Windsong Park it should remain fenced with the gates opened during the dawn to dusk hours the park is supposed to be enjoyed. This would be consistent with how the City’s other neighborhood park, Heritage Regency, was operated the entire time it was last open. Although, I cannot prove it, In the 1999/2000 timeframe I had many discussions with a gentleman named “Dan” who lived at the corner of Raspberry Lane and Prairie Road, and walked almost daily by me house. He brought up the then closed park and claimed during the period Windsong Park was operated by the now defunct Ortega Trail Recreation and Park District in the 1990s, he successfully led the charge to force the District to erect a fence with one gate which was secured during the hours of darkness to mitigate the otherwise uncontrollable Windsong Park security related problems to close proximity neighbors. This was the fence and gate the County removed when they re-opened the park in 2006. In addition to reducing the negative aspects of the park on the immediate neighbors, physically securing the park during the hours of darkness will reduce graffiti and vandalism in and to the park. From my very personal experience; 8 years with a fence, 4 years without a fence, and then 4 years with a fence, FENCES DO WORK!
As a last thought, I have often been asked by those who have heard me express my Windsong Park security concerns, why I bought a house which backs up to it. It was June 1998. The park was closed at the time but I new it could be re-opened. Honestly, I did struggle prior to making my offer to purchase. The house and property I purchased certainly had a long list of pros. Living next to a park had its pros and cons. Parks can be attractive. On the con side of the ledger, I listed the noise, traffic, and parking. I did not list vandalism to my property. I did not list trash, including beer bottles and used condoms deposited on my property. I did not list sleepless nights, having to listen to after hours partying, yelling, drug dealing, and the park being used by overnight squatters. I certainly expected, based on growing up in the not so affluent part of Riverside CA, and with close family having a house nearby backing up to a park just like mine now does, that the park would be routinely patrolled and police would respond in a timely fashion when a problem arose. What a mistake on my part……!
One Wildomar blogger who wants the fence removed is urging all Wildomar residents to weigh in on the Windsong Park fence issue. Obviously, folks living more than a block or two away from Windsong Park, like the aforementioned blogger, will be overwhelming in favor of the fence removal. The lack of law enforcement for the park is no problem for them. Kind of NIMBY (Not in my backyard) in reverse.
Your neighbor, acting as a private citizen,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This issue is expected to come before the City of Wildomar Parks Subcommittee on Tuesday Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend. The meeting will be held at Wildomar City Hall, 23873 Clinton Keith Rd., Suite 201.