BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Alcohol and tobacco use has been an ongoing problem at parks around Kern County, but a group of local youth is trying to curb the problem.
Naomi Mercado and Ann Williams use team work to clean up Rexland Acres Park.
“I like a pretty park, not one that looks nasty,” said Williams.
The girls are youth volunteers with the Building Healthy Communities AmeriCorps Program. They are joined by dozens of others for the community cleanup day.
“I think it’s really important for the youth to get involved at a young age and see the importance and value and the richness in serving their communities and promoting healthy lifestyles,” said Bryant Macias, an AmeriCorps youth mentor.
It was a similar park cleanup last year at four South Kern parks that the youth found some things that disturbed them.
“There were broken glass and a lot of trash,” said Ana Karen Yanez, a youth leader of Building Healthy Communities.
That wasn’t it; the group also found cigarette butts. Their findings encouraged the group to make a change and launch the “Beautiful Parks, Healthy Communities Campaign.”
“The campaign is mainly to reduce the alcohol and tobacco use in four different parks,” said Yanez.
Those parks include Weedpatch, Lamont, Rexland Acres and Digorgio Parks.
“Our goal is to have safe, clean parks for the kids and for families not to worry about glass in the sand where the kids play,” said youth leader Jose Pinto.
The youth are currently working with the county to draft an alcohol and tobacco ordinance.
It would require somebody who wants to drink in the park to get a permit, according to Bob Lerude, Director of Kern County Parks and Recreation.
Lerude said it would also enforce the rules at Weedpatch and Lamont Parks where the ordinance is already in effect. Smoking would also be limited to the parking lots.
“Here we have a lot of teenagers in the local communities of Rexland Acres, Greenfield, Lamont and Arvin stepping up to the plate and wanting to improve their local parks and communities,” said Lerude. “I think that’s a positive and bodes well for our future.”
The youth are also working with the county to come up with a master plan at the parks which includes making improvements like putting in walking path and picnic benches.
“This is our home, this is where we live and if no one else is making change then who else would,” said Yanez.
The youth will be presenting their plan to the Kern County Board of Supervisors sometime in November.