Volunteers survey Oakland’s parks, amidst ongoing challenges

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On Saturday, volunteers and park stewards gathered for the 11th annual Love Your Parks Day, conducting a survey to inspect the conditions of more than 110 Oakland parks. The data from all the surveys will be presented in February into the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation’s (OPRF) annual report to the city council’s Public Works Committee on park conditions.

In 2003, the foundation conducted its first survey. The results of the report described deteriorating park conditions, which they attributed in large part to the loss of skilled gardeners. According to that report, the public works staff had concentrated more of their budget on less-costly part-time positions called “park attendants” who are relatively unskilled—they acquire skills on the job but they are hired for only a portion of the year and some do not return.

The foundation has identified two new challenges emerging in many Oakland parks. As they state in the 2015 report, “four years of drought have taken a harsh toll on the landscaping of countless parks, and a dramatic increase in homeless encampments has rendered many of our parks unsuitable and unsafe for citizens’ use.”

While the reports project all these grim results, volunteers continue their efforts every year to improve the conditions of all Oakland parks. “I hope it’s going to open people’s eyes,” said Susan Nguyen, one of the young volunteers referring to the annual report. “Because it’s sad, some of these places I didn’t even know they were parks.”

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