May 28, 2024

IE COMMUNITY NEWS

El Chicano, Colton Courier, Rialto Record

Shocking Report: 73% of San Bernardino Residents Avoid Parks Due to Safety Concerns

3 min read

Neelay Bhatt, CEO of Next Practice Partners, leading a City of San Bernardino Parks Master Plan Kickoff in April 2023.

A recent survey has revealed a startling truth about the city of San Bernardino, a staggering 73% of residents do not visit local parks because they do not feel safe. This alarming statistic was just one of many findings presented to the City Council during a Master Plan update on San Bernardino Parks by Neelay Bhatt, CEO of Next Practice Partners.

The survey, which reached 10,000 random households, aimed to gauge community needs and opinions regarding the city’s parks and recreational facilities. With a response rate yielding 419 completed surveys, the results paint a concerning picture of public perception and park usage in the area.

One of the most shocking revelations shared to council on April 3, 2024 was the lack of park access for city residents. According to Bhatt, only 46% of people in San Bernardino have access to a park within a 10-minute walk. “This means more than 1 in 2 people in this city do not have access within a 10-minute walk, falling below the national average of 55%,” Bhatt stated.

The survey also found that only 60% of respondents had visited a city park in the past 12 months, but their experiences were far from positive. A significant 46% rated the condition of the parks they visited as poor, with only 1% deeming them excellent.

Safety concerns were the primary reason for avoiding parks, with 73% of non-visitors citing this as their reason. Bhatt noted, “I’ve done about 300-400 of these surveys and this is the highest response for lack of safety that I’ve found. Almost 3 in 4 people said they do not feel safe going there.” Criminal activity and poor maintenance were also significant deterrents, with 56% of respondents each pointing to these issues.

Interestingly, 34% of residents reported going to neighboring cities for parks and recreational activities, highlighting a potential loss of community engagement and revenue for San Bernardino.

When asked how they would allocate funds for parks and recreation, respondents prioritized increasing safety, park maintenance, and lighting. Despite these concerns, 81% said quality parks are important to them, and 53% expressed willingness to pay between $1-$10 more per month in taxes to improve park facilities.

The community listening sessions and meetings administered by Next Practice Partners are inclusive, with translators for sign language, Spanish speakers, and more.

The top overall concerns for San Bernardino residents were homelessness/panhandling (67%), blight (62%), and crime and violence (58%).

Doug Grove, President of RHA Landscape Architects, provided an analysis of the city’s parks, revealing that about 75% of them scored low to moderate in terms of access, functionality, safety, comfort, and maintenance. He suggested that consolidating the number of aquatic spaces could offer a better experience by focusing on newer and fewer facilities.

Councilmember Kimberly Calvin highlighted the importance of community input, stating, “Those were some important meetings and listening sessions that you held (Neelay), and I was happy to be able to attend in multiple wards and to hear what the people of San Bernardino want within walking distance to their home.”

Councilmember Damon Alexander questioned the integration of solar canopies and chargers in park parking lots, considering the rise of electric vehicles. “With Tesla coming to San Bernardino, and thinking ahead, do you think solar canopies in parking lots or chargers is something we should be looking to integrate?” he asked.

Councilmember Sandra Ibarra assured that funding had been allocated to address the issues raised by survey participants, stating, “There is a lot of funding that we have allocated to those issues the participants stated they’d like to see improved in the parks when determining for CIPs; there has been lots of funding approved for park repairs and programming.”

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan was initiated in January 2023, with the goal of engaging the community and guiding the development and management of the city’s parks and recreational facilities. Throughout the 18-month process, Next Practice Partners, LLC, and city staff have conducted Community Listening Sessions, launched the dedicated website mysbparks.com, and engaged with residents to gather input and feedback.

The presentation concluded with a promise of future plans, including a comprehensive level of service assessment, GIS-based equity mapping, and a final action and implementation plan. As the city looks to its future, the clear message from its residents is that safety, maintenance, and accessibility must be top priorities for San Bernardino’s parks and recreational spaces.

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