Lilia S. lives in Sunnyside, but she wrote to Bernalwood last night with an astute list of reforms that might be undertaken in the aftermath of Christy Svanemyr’s death last week in Holly Park, to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again:
I am heartbroken and dismayed by the tragic killing of Christine Svanemyr in Holly Park last Thursday, September 5, 2013. I can’t imagine how such an event could even take place – and yet it has. The point of city parks is to be a safe haven for people to relax and children to play away from dangerous traffic. If that isn’t the case, as clearly it isn’t, we need to take a long hard look at our priorities.
I am on half a dozen local parents’ lists and the outcry over this tragedy has been overwhelming. Below, I have compiled a brief list of actions needed to change our broken system so that the parks can be safe and tragedies like this never repeat themselves. These concerns are compiled from a range of San Francisco residents and parents; I don’t pretend they are all mine.
Increase the effectiveness of the 311 customer service line: I understand from the parents’ email lists that people have been complaining to 311 about motor vehicle driving in Holly Park for some time now. I personally have been hung up on more than not by the customer service representatives whom I reach through 311. All customer complaints must be followed up and resolved. This tragedy never would have happened if that were already the case.
Prohibit motor vehicles from driving in the parks unless there is significant construction or object (like a large tree) removal: human power should be plenty for most regular park maintenance. Unless there is something significant and unusual going on, there should never be motor vehicles in the parks.
Use the smallest vehicle that will do the job: if a motor vehicle is needed for a specific, larger than usual, park maintenance activity, it should be very smallest one that can do the job. Unless a giant thousand-year-old redwood has died and needs removed, there is no reason for anything larger than a golf cart to be in the parks.
Enforce existing rules when motor vehicles must drive in the park: I understand there are a range or rules in terms of MPH limits, not driving on the grass, and having a second worker spotting the vehicle during any time they are within park grounds. I also understand that thousands of parents using our parks have seen Rec and Park workers ignore these rules.
Assign job responsibilities appropriately: the job of maintaining our parks is a privilege that should only be offered to workers who respect the vulnerable nature of recreational space. If a worker takes a different view of recreational space, I am sure the City can find another job responsibility for him or her.
We have lost more than a local mother; we have lost our ability to feel safe in our parks. Christy is gone. But significant action, including the items described above, can return our parks to their intended role as a place for safe recreation. We all grieve in different ways – mine is to try to address the cause of this tragic loss so that it never happens again.
Thank you for listening.
PHOTO: “Jenny Naps” in Holly Park, by Jeff Gray, 2007 via Flickr