Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Can't Woodley Park In Van Nuys Finish What They Started?

This was taken in September of 2012
Woodley Park in Van Nuys, CA, Part of the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department.  In April of 2012, Recreations and Parks tore down an exercise area where myself and countless others would gather to workout.  There were bars for pull ups, bars for push ups and dips, steps and planks to practice balance and squatting.  There was even a bench for sit ups.  And while it was old and needed a little work; for me and the virtual melting pot of Angelinos that would come here, from all over L.A., this was a free place to build strength, tone muscle and burn fat.  For me, it was the Valley's answer to Santa Monica's Muscle Beach.  

Now, at the time of this blog posting, the exercise area has not been put back up.  According to the sign they left, the Recreation and Parks people said this place will be back in action on July 15th 2012.  Yet here we are, March of 2013 and no new equipment.

My question is what happened?  Why did they tear it down  in the first place and more importantly, why haven't they put it back up yet?  

But first, real quick, lets look at Los Angeles and Health:

According to livescience, Los Angeles had an obesity rate of 20.3 in 2011. While not in the top 10 fattest cities in America, certainly not something to be proud of either.  Also in an article in the L.A. Times from April of 2009, Los Angeles County ranks among the worst counties in the state for heart disease.
This one was in February of 2013

From the article:  "Our obesity rates have continued to go up, our diabetes rates have continued to go up, both of which are quite disturbing," said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding.

Fielding said more needs to be done to increase physical activity among county residents and stem poor nutrition, obesity and untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
So again, what is the problem here?  I thought we needed more places to combat obesity and diabetes not less!  While most parks have their fair share of bureaucratic growing pains and bumps in the road, Woodley Park clearly has a real problem keeping on schedule.  There are two pictures here in this blog that will look almost the same but unfortunately were taken five months apart.  One in September 2012 and another in  February of 2013 and then when you read the sign, you'll see my frustration and the irony of this situation.

I struggle to understand why in a city struggling with rising obesity, heart disease and diabetes, why this isn't a major priority to the the city?  Especially since "image" is such a piece of the whole L.A. "thing."

And get this, in a letter from L.A. Parks and Rec, commissioner Barry Sanders says, "We are Los Angeles, its people and its places. For help in public health by enabling outdoor activity and reducing obesity and diabetes." 

Notice the "We Make L.A. A Better Place" on the sign
Seriously Barry? If that was really true, how is it that this is even possible?  Wouldn't this be a major priority for you? Are you even aware it's been over 7 months since this job was schedules to be done?  I don't know about the public sector, but if you're 7 months late on a project in the private sector, you get fired. Period.

Please, don't misunderstand, I'm not calling for Barry's job here, I'm simply making a point, that in the private sector, this would never happen.

My question would be, where do you workout Barry? I don't know, so I won't speculate, but what I do know is that many people in the San Fernando Valley are struggling to just get by and a gym membership just isn't in the budget; it's not a reality for a lot of people.  And these are tax payers and voters who as members of the community deserve a place like this to exercise.

I have called on this matter and I got a voice mail from Barbara Pleasant who is the Acting Principle Ground Maintenance Supervisor. This voice mail came in October of 2012. You can hear it here on SoundCloud. Basically she tells me that the Army Corp of Engineers owns that piece of property and made them stop working on that project. BUT she says they got permission to start working on it again and would be back to it in November and from that point it should only take a month to complete. Meaning I should have been able to do pullups on Christmas day... Or at least New Years day... definitely MLK day and Valentine's Day!

What is the chance of pullups on St. Patty's day? At this point, not sure because I've left 2 additional messages since I took the second photo.  

I did wind up also, receiving a call from Tom Leveque who works maintenance in the Sepulveda Basin.  Tom says now, they're waiting on the equipment.  Frankly, as an armchair carpenter,  who chose choir as an elective in high school verses wood shop, I could roll down to a Home Depot grab some piping and wood (and a few helpers) and knock this project out in a weekend.  Clearly, I'm frustrated...

For many Angelinos, exercise is a way to reduce stress. Exercise and strength training goes beyond the physical challenges and takes on a more mental and spiritual aspect. Personally, in my quest to achieve and maintain sobriety, this workout area was one of my safe havens. A place to wrestle with and do battle with my own demons. If I can conquer myself, if I can push my body past a perceived limit and make myself stronger then my mind will strengthen as well. My spirit will grow strong. And this dear readers is why this is such an issue for me.  Simply put, I can't help but think if I was able to find strength here and forge the spirit of a warrior in this place then who else was?  Who else is missing this place? Who else could be benefiting from this outdoor courage corner? 

That's the bigger picture - nobody wins while this is incomplete.  The City looses and it's citizens loose too.  

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