Marijane Hamann Park is a spacious green expanse of 10.5 acres ensconced in a suburban enclave of San Jose that borders the city of Campbell. The park’s amenities include a children’s playground, a large green carpet of lawn, picnic tables and barbecues.
There also some rather prodigious trees and enclosed tennis courts. Hamann Park might be the quintessential San Jose neighborhood park, a family-friendly environment that offers the spacious natural getaway close to home, a place for a healthy walk, a nice place to take toddlers out for some recreation, as well as a perfect setting for a neighborhood barbecue.
The park is big enough for lots of people to share. Some of the people that began sharing the park in the last year were groups of juveniles who caught the attention of the other park patrons by their bad behavior, as well as by their persistent gathering at the park on late afternoons and into the evenings. They were welcome, as anyone in this friendly neighborhood would be.
Like sometimes happens when unsupervised juveniles gather, activities move from conversation to less sociable behavior. Neighbors became aware of drug and alcohol use that was openly flaunted. Some neighbors let these miscreants know that some of their behavior was not acceptable. Such admonitions were often met by indifferent or dismissive responses.
When the unruly behavior turned to vandalism, the neighborhood began to feel that this family-friendly park might not be safe for their children. Having trash strewn by the groups of kids changed the atmosphere. Neighbors also began to experience car break-ins and vandalism and graffiti outside the park.
The Hamann Park Neighborhood Association felt the need to act. What they did was smart, decisive and effective in restoring the park to its former status. They took a comprehensive approach, working with the San Jose Police Department to become aware of the times and days when trouble was most likely to occur. They worked with park staff to address some needs for lighting, repairs and other physical improvements in the park.
Finally, the Neighborhood Association hired security patrols to create the kind of deterrence that showed the errant youth that a line had been crossed. In speaking with neighbor Vince Navarra, he said the results are heartening. People feel like they can maintain the security of the neighborhood and the park.
I have been peripherally involved with Hamann Park for a few years, learning the concerns of the community, supplying dog waste bags to volunteers who keep them stocked at the park, and generally learning and listening. I enjoyed last summer’s National Night Out in Hamann Park, when dozens of residents enjoyed a barbecue. There was nice acoustic music, and San Jose police and fire personnel joined the picnic.
This active stewardship by Hamann Park neighbors is the perfect example of the kind of citizen care that will keep all of our parks safe, clean and family-friendly.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK.