With Shrinking City Budgets, Park "Adoptions" Rise

Residents have taken on maintenance of numerous Petaluma parks, weeding, clearing garbage, painting benches and planting flowers after Parks & Rec budget slashed over past seven years


Self-reliance is a much-praised American trait, and in the Great Recession, people all over the country have been demonstrating it in a variety of ways.

One of them is by “adopting” local parks when cities have struggled to keep up with maintenance.

The same is true here in Petaluma.

Just last month, a group of volunteers from the Petaluma Service Alliance repainted close to 30 benches and put in new vegetation at Walnut Park, while the Petaluma Mothers’ Club paid for a new shade structure at the park’s playground.

At Westhaven Park, located off Western Avenue, residents regularly pull weeds, spread mulch, plant flowers and recently donated funds to expand the picnic area and add a barbeque.

“Since the recession, a lot of more people are coming forward and asking what they can do,” says Ron DeNicola, a buildings and grounds manager for the city of Petaluma. “If typically generates in an organic way, people realize there is a need and they want to do something to pitch in.”

The city has never been flush with cash, but in the better days, or 2006 to be exact, it had 17 people who were responsible for keeping park lawns cut, benches and playground equipment in good condition and trash emptied.

Now there are just seven, meaning repairs take a lot longer to get done.

Other adoptions include Oak Hill Park, where residents hold quarterly weeding parties, and Lucchesi Park, where members of the local Freemason chapter recently helped clear trash and other from the duck pond.

(City workers clear the bird excrement around the pond on regular basis.)

There are always more parks that need improvements than available staff or volunteers, says DeNicola, and picnic bench repair and painting, as well as improvements to playground structures top the list.

"Anyone can adopt a park," he says. "All you have to do is come in and fill out a form."

If you’re interested in adopting a local park, contact 778-4303 or email publicworks@ci.petaluma.ca.us

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