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Letter to the Editor: Wilderness Park

February 20th, 2017 by Arcadia Weekly

– Courtesy photo / Edward L. Butterworth & Kenneth T. Butterworth

 

Dear Mayor and City Council Members:

I moved to our fair city in the early 1960s as a young boy and soon discovered the wonders of Wilderness Park in the Highland Oaks area of Arcadia. My older brother and I and our friends spent many summer days hiking through Wilderness Park and into the hills and streams beyond. It helped instill in me a lifelong love of the outdoors.

Many years later, I began to look at Wilderness Park quite differently due to an unpleasant experience. Approximately 15 years ago, I took my then young children to Wilderness Park on a weekend to shoot our annual Christmas card photograph. While there, a City of Arcadia employee approached me telling me we had to leave because I did not have a reservation. He hovered around us until we were done with the photographs and left the park. I had not realized that the park of my boyhood had now become a place that required “reservations.” The idea seemed absurd since most people would never think to call ahead and make a “reservation” to visit a public park.

I have shared my feelings about this with Mayor Beck on several occasions. I am bringing this issue up[ now to the attention of the entire council, prompted by another experience I had this past weekend. Last Sunday, I was out for my usual jog. Sometimes the gates are left open so I can slip into Wilderness Park (without a reservation!) and run through it as part of my exercise routine. As I was getting close to the gates of the park, I came across a father and his young son on a small bicycle with training wheels as they were headed for Wilderness Park. We both reached the park about the same time and simultaneously saw the gates closed and locked. It was like witnessing a twisted Norman Rockwell painting: instead of a scene of a young boy enjoying riding his bicycle through the park, I saw the sad face of a child turned away from his own neighborhood park because it was for “reservations only.”

I realize the City of Arcadia has many pressing issues that are far more important than Wilderness Park, but this issue is worthy of your attention. I know of no other park in the City of Arcadia that is closed on weekends. After all, parks are most heavily used on Saturdays and Sundays when people are off work and kids are out of school. What justification for closing this treasure in Arcadia on weekends?

I know that in the City of San Marino, Lacey Park used to be open to all visitors seven days a week. Later, San Marino changed the policy, not by requiring reservations, but charging non-residents an entrance fee. If Arcadia is concerned about an onslaught of non-residents overtaking our park, then they could similarly charge non-residents an entrance fee. I sincerely doubt, however, that Wilderness Park will soon be overrun by non-residents as it is tucked away in a quiet corner of the city and most people seeking a wilderness experience are headed up the road to Chantry Flats instead.

I urge the council to take up this matter and stop this madness. I am a taxpayer and should be entitled to visit my local park whenever I choose, without pre-booking. Please, take up a vote and reopen Wilderness Park to all of our residents, seven days a week. Please, stop locking out our children from riding their bikes, going for hikes or having a family picnic on a beautiful weekend. Put an end to a policy that prohibits our residents from spontaneously visiting this beautiful park and enjoying its splendors.

Thank you for your consideration of my views. I look forward to the City taking prompt action.

Sincerely,

Gregory R. Vanni

2 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Wilderness Park

  1. Frederic Reply

    March 1, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Vote no on Measure A.

    Five years ago the AUSD’s first measure A was sold as an emergency and temporary measure to make up for a funding shortfall resulting from the recession. With the first measure expiring, and the recession over, they now claim that they need even greater injections of money, and for at least 18 more years.

    A responsible district could make a case for more money by fully disclosing all of its
    finances, explaining clearly how the extra funds would actually benefit the students, and perhaps presenting information from
    other school districts for comparison. That isn’t how the AUSD operates. Instead they offer emotionally charged claims, provided by their paid political consultants, that the funds are needed to “protect” the schools. That without them a baby born today might suffer from educational cuts in some hypothetical future economic downturn. (Because – what
    heartless tyrant could vote against a baby!) They threaten staffing cuts, filthy schools, and
    the loss of advanced placement tests. Scare tactics all. The AUSD refers as often as possible to their “highly qualified teachers”, implying that the AUSD’s teachers are somehow more qualified than those in other districts. They have never presented evidence to support the claim.
    The specific terminology actually refers to a set
    of teaching qualifications required for all public
    school districts in the “No Child
    Left Behind” act.

    The residents of Arcadia deserve better than this. We have provided the AUSD with many outstanding students and with parents who encourage their studies. These students in
    turn, and as expected, have high academic performance and gain entry to top notch colleges. The AUSD implies at every opportunity that somehow they are responsible
    for these good outcomes, but the truth of the matter is that these students would excel at any school. Indeed, there does not even exist a widely accepted metric to assess specifically any teacher or school’s effect on student outcome, much to the chagrin of those who advocate tying teacher pay to student outcome.

    Voters should consider the unintentional experiment the AUSD performed relating funding to academic outcomes. During the recent recession the AUSD made “deep
    cuts”, yet not a single academic measure like SAT scores or the college acceptance rate moved down a measurable amount.
    After the first Measure A passed and funding increased these values did not suddenly rise, nor did they rise as the economy improved
    and state funding was restored. In short, there is not a shred of evidence that the money the AUSD now requests is going to make a bit of difference to the students.

    Another AUSD straw man, the loss of Advanced Placement classes, deserves
    particular disdain. The fact is that any student who will score well on such a test after taking an AUSD AP class can do just as well, if they
    study for that test on their own or with friends, often with many fewer hours of study. The AUSD, apparently to increase demand for teachers, or perhaps to avoid revealing that they possess no special AP mojo, will not
    let such a student take the test with the AUSD taught students.
    Thankfully the AUSD possesses no monopoly so self taught students may arrange to take AP tests at other local schools.

  2. Frederic Reply

    March 2, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Your article about Wildernesses park is yet another unfortunate example of the sheer arrogance of Arcadia city govt. I too enjoyed WP as a kid. The issue is that years ago the nearby residents complained enough that the city caved in and closed the park on the weekend to anyone that didn’t call before noon on Friday to get a reservation. What a joke. Who knows on a Friday if their going for certain to WP within the next two days? And the guy that the city makes sit there in his white truck needs to not think he’s some big shot security man. He’s been pretty rude on several occasions. Maybe we can file a lawsuit since that’s the only way this city now responds. Hire the same attorney that April and David Arvizu use for their various lawsuits. That attorney knows what he’s doing and has Lazzarettos number on his speed dial.

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