It is time for the city to open up Plummer Park. As the state’s stay at home orders are loosening, allowing the opening of beaches and hiking trails, it seems a bit absurd not to open up West Hollywood’s parks.
Rather than force West Hollywood’s residents to get in a car to enjoy some open space, it just seems logical that we should be allowed to use our parks. The loss of Plummer Park has been particularly painful given that so many Eastside residents don’t have yards or access to open spaces. Plummer Park has functioned almost as an extension of their homes. The closure of Plummer Park has been particularly disruptive for seniors and families with children.
I am not saying that we abandon our efforts to protect the public from COVID-19, but given the numbers, we need to start allowing adults to make their own decisions within certain guidelines. We can require that adult park users wear masks, that they maintain a certain amount of social distancing and ask that people limit their use of the park to an hour a day so that everyone can safely use the park. I am not sure if the basketball courts should be opened, but I think that perhaps we should let the athletically inclined make that choice themselves. The work out bars in Plummer Park should be open, but encourage people to wear gloves and have park staff wipe down the area hourly. . Maybe the city could sponsor social-distanced yoga classes in the mornings. It should not be such a challenge to get the “Creative City” to act creatively.
I think we could also open up our dog parks, including the facilities in West Hollywood Park, but limit the number of people who are inside the enclosures. As long as we have staff to properly monitor the dog parks, we should be able to do this safely.
We could re-deploy the private uniformed security to gently encourage proper social distancing and safe behavior in the park. We also have plenty of city employees who are being under-utilized yet are still being paid. I am sure their union would help find employees who may want to work in the parks to supplement existing park staff on a temporary basis. I believe there are plenty of city employees who would be willing to serve the community in this fashion. We could even use volunteers or hire high school students to be summer park monitors.
I was disappointed that once the city closed the auditorium in West Hollywood Park it did not make it available for a temporary homeless shelter or at least a homeless drop in center. It does not appear that many of the people who live on Santa Monica Boulevard are getting much by way of services during this crisis.
While the council recently voted to close the West Hollywood auditorium to expedite its demolition to speed the construction of our new park facilities, there is no reason why it could not be spared for a few weeks so we could allow our recovery community to stage socially distanced meetings in the building. I would also have the city open Fiesta Hall and Great Hall for the same purpose. We could allowing meetings from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and have staff available to wipe down metal chairs between meetings. The social isolation of people in recovery has been a huge challenge, and meeting space where people can safely socially distance is in short demand. It seems a shame that the most creative use for these buildings during the COVID crisis is to simply close them.
Ideally the City Council could vote to expedite the opening of our parks at the June 15 meeting. If you want the parks to be opened, then contact City Council to get this process started.