TURLOCK — Identifying the problems in the area of Denair Park is pretty simple: Residents at Tuesday nights City Council meeting cited urination, fornication, defecation and intimidation, along with thefts and vandalism, stemming from the homeless people who frequent the downtown park.
Finding a solution is not nearly as straightforward, as officials pointed out to residents and business owners. Community parks are just that, open to all members of the community.
But officials are going to take a shot at solving the issues, and they have asked the very people complaining about them to help.
Police Capt. Carl Nielsen said more than 100 people attended a community meeting last week to express concerns about the park, where people congregate daily, and the surrounding area. Several residents also attended Tuesdays meeting Mayor John Lazar noted the unusually packed council chamber.
Greg Olivera noted the major renovation the downtown area underwent several years ago.
The city and the (Turlock) Downtown Association spent a lot of money, he said. Im wondering if this is the end product you were hoping for. People lounging around downtown. Anyplace is a public restroom. Is this the new norm?
Retired educator Bob Brazil called the matter a school safety issue. Sacred Heart, a Catholic elementary school, is down the block from the park, and Turlock High School is a couple of blocks away.
My concern is the safety of the children, he said. Lets be responsible in this particular area and dont wait until we have to react to a tragedy.
Rhonda Lucas, mother of 7- and 9-year-old children, echoed those concerns. A friend of mine saw two men fornicating as she picked up her children from school, Lucas said. She has seen people urinating in public, and said one man yelled at her when she refused to give him money.
You need to act with a great sense of urgency, she said. We are one crazy person away from a tragedy. We need to reclaim Denair Park.
Nielsen and Police Chief Rob Jackson pledged to work on the problem with a group of residents and business people, who signed up at last weeks meeting. They will meet next week and work on potential solutions.
But Councilwoman Amy Bublak cautioned against just relocating the homeless to another area.
I dont want the problem to move to anybody elses neighborhood, she said.
Lazar suggested bringing the matter to a public meeting.
I see it daily, he said. I talk to people daily about it. We need to try to do whats right for our community. Im very intrigued and interested to see where we go with this.