BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The bandstand at Jastro Park is showing its age. It’s weathered, it’s cracked and it’s abused, having been damaged by vandals. It’s also been ignored by its patrons — us.
Is it time for the City of Bakersfield to step up and take care of this monument to Bakersfield history? A chorus of people sure think so.
One voice for investment in city parks is Rick Anthony, who — no surprise here — is the city’s newly anointed director of the Recreation and Parks Department.
Challenge number one for Anthony — after learning his way around the building: repairing the chipped paint, missing roof tiles, and graffiti on that bandstand. And then maintaining it.
“It’s so easy to build something new, to cut ribbons,” he said. “Those are the flashy things that have to be recognized, certainly. I do personally believe there’s tremendous need and value in maintaining what you have, preserving history that you have, and at some point even repurposing and reimagining those spaces.”
Anthony, who moved from a similar parks and rec job in Maryland back to his hometown to replace the recently retired previous director, Dianne Hoover, has an idea what he’s up against.
Renovations at Jastro won’t come cheap. The city is investing $300.000 in an upgrade to the park’s playground — and that’s already budgeted. Repairs and upgrades to the basketball courts and the park’s centerpiece, the old bandstand, will cost another $475,000 — and that is not budgeted.
Councilman Andrae Gonzales — whose second ward includes the city’s three oldest parks, Jastro, Beale and Jefferson — says it has to happen — and happen now, while the city is looking for constructive ways to spend revenue from its year-old 1-cent sales tax increase. That’s Measure N, the Bakersfield Public Safety and Vital Services Measure
“I’m hoping that we can activate this space,” he said. “We’ve seen events in the past that I’ve been able to partner with neighborhood residents in Westchester who have had movie nights at the park here, have had small concerts. I remember, growing up, there being political rallies in this park. … So there’s a lot of history in this park.”
He’ll get no arguments from the park’s users. Kennedy Rodriguez lives just around the corner and brings her pre-K boys here almost daily.
“Anything that has to do with fixing up any kind of park or public area,” she said, “I’ll all for it.”
It just won’t come cheap. Gonzalez says the city council had $8 million dollars in deferred park maintenance staring it in the face, and still has $5 million of that to conquer.
We can probably imagine what Henry A. Jastro would say about this state of affairs. But what do current city leaders have to say about it? That’s the question.