By Anne Alvarez
Fitness stations versus park benches was the most important item on the Oakwood Park Advisory Board’s agenda, Nov. 1, and quite clearly what drove Venice locals to come out and make their voices heard.
According to Lizka Mendoza Oakwood Park Director, final decision for it’s whereabouts are unknown. At one point, according to various people in attendance, during a previous Advisory meeting had been led to believe that “park benches would be removed in order to make room for the exercise equipment” this statement was denied by Mendoza and the rest of the board members.
One thing was made clear however, and that is that Venice residents most of them lifetime residents, are completely opposed to any kind of relocation or removal of park benches, which according to many like Sheila Smith, who has lived in Venice for the past 44 years, is where the true heart of the community lies. Old friends gather and play dominoes, checkers or cards on any given day, family picnics and birthday celebrations take place every weekend. It is a place where memories and tradition are kept alive.
Gentrification is a word that was used by most who took the floor, the local community mostly African American and Latino which have resided in the Oakwood park area for generations, feel their community is being torn apart by the new more affluent residents that have recently begun to call their neighborhood, home, and they turned out in force to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Not only do residents oppose the proposed site for the exercise equipment, but they want more park benches added as well as an outdoor restroom.
Not one person was opposed to having outdoor exercise equipment provided, Shaylon Williams from the Venice Bulldogs said “Having a fitness area is a great idea.” 95 percent of those who spoke voiced their concerns about the location, while the other 5 percent were concerned with trash and safety. All made valid points and everyone present at the meeting clearly cares about the future of the community.
Make your voice heard by sending an email to Jon Kirk Muri [email protected] or calling 213-202-2656 at Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Dept., tell them you oppose any attempt to move or relocate any existing park benches at Oakwood Park, let them know bathrooms and proper lighting are imperative in keeping the Park and community safe and clean.