[San Bernardino County] Grand Jury: County parks neglected

Prado Park one of nine in need of repairs

The San Bernardino County civil grand jury has determined that seriously dangerous conditions exist at county parks because they have not been properly maintained for many years.

The report states that the San Bernardino County Regional Parks Department has failed in its leadership and has exhibited a lack of concern for residents due to its policy of deferred maintenance, where repairs are postponed in order to save money and to meet budget funding levels.

The report acknowledged that it has only been in the past year that any meaningful attempt has been made to correct the issues.

County spokesman David Wert said the county realizes the parks need a lot of attention and funding is the root of the problem.

He said the Regional Parks Department was required by the county administrative office during the 2008 recession to become self-sufficient and that mandate is still in place.

The Department was mandated to survive on the revenue generated by the parks rather than compete with law and justice and social services for limited general fund revenues, Mr. Wert said.

“Despite the mandate, Regional Parks has yet to become completely self-sufficient,” Mr. Wert said.

Prado Park

Prado Park, located off Euclid Avenue in south Chino, was called out for a staffing problem because the park is operating at 50 percent of its staff allocation, according to the grand jury report, even though the park is the largest with the most activities of the nine county parks.

The report calls for a replacement of the playground and splash park flooring because they are worn out, torn, and a safety hazard.

Bathrooms need attention because the shower lighting fixtures are infested with dead insects, lights in the shower stalls are not working, and water faucets are broken.

Trash containers are needed in the women’s toilet stalls and irrigation systems need repair. Drinking fountains are also in need of repair and the restrooms should be refurbished.

The concession and pedal boat stands should be re-opened. 

Mr. Wert said Regional Parks plans to seek funding from the county for repairs to the playground and splash park areas during the next quarterly budget cycle in September or October.

He said the county hired Regional Parks Director Beahta Davis in 2017 who has a great deal of experience operating parks. “Under her leadership, the conditions at the parks are improving and the management of the department is improving as well,” Mr. Wert said.

In decline

The Regional Parks investigation was launched after the grand jury, a citizens panel tasked with examining all aspects of county and city governments, received complaints about the pool closure at Guasti Regional Park in Ontario and the prolonged delay in completing the dredging and dam operations at Lake Gregory in Crestline.

The grand jury reported that the Regional Parks Department maintenance staff was reduced by 33 percent from 2010 to 2018 and no revisions or updates have been made to job descriptions since 2009.

Most concession stands are closed, and many have fallen into an extreme state of disrepair.

“Based upon the rise in vandalism and the potential hazards to park visitors, the current security program is inadequate,” according to the report.

Staff has been reduced from 275 in 2010 to 194 in 2018.

The Regional Parks Department has been operating under a policy manual issued in 1989, with some sections dating back to 1976, and there is no prescribed communication method for the Regional Parks Advisory Commission to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

Fix it

Among the grand jury’s recommendations: rewrite the policy manual, conduct a safety and structure inspection of every building in the parks system, start an intensive maintenance and repair program, replace the deferred maintenance policy with a preventive maintenance program, outsource painting and road/parking upkeep.

Mr. Wert said the county will respond to the recommendations in an official response that will be finalized in September.

For the full report which also contains scathing criticism of the county’s senior centers and the Children and Family Services Department, visit sbcounty.gov/grandjury/reports.

July 27, 2019

Chino Champion

By Marianne Napoles