When it comes to the future of Hart Park and all of Kern County’s parks, Ryan Alsop is willing to stick his neck out.
The county’s new chief administrative officer inherited plenty of problems, including a budget crisis that could humble ambitions in even the most determined of men.
Nevertheless, Alsop is adamant about the county’s parks.
“This is a big priority of mine,” he said. “Parks are a big priority for this CAO.”
More than two months after county supervisors put on hold a proposal to charge a $5 parking fee at Hart Park, Alsop said he and his staff are working hard to develop a vision, a plan for the parks.
Where is the money being spent? How is it being spent? Is it being spent as efficiently as possible? These and other questions must be answered before a comprehensive plan can be formed.
“It’s a big data sheet with lots of numbers,” Alsop said.
And the odds are steep.
“I am not satisfied with the state of our parks,” he insisted. “We can do better.”
Alsop was responding to follow-up questions from a reporter regarding an earlier story about trash bins overflowing at Hart Park on Easter Sunday.
In a letter dated March 18 — weeks before Easter — Margie Bell, chair of the Buena Vista Group of the local Kern-Kaweah Chapter of the Sierra Club, listed the group’s concerns about saving Hart Park.
One of the points specifically addressed the park’s trash problem.
“There are proportionally more trash bins in the nearby Kern River Campground and the park adjacent to Ming Lake than at Hart Park,” the letter stated. “People use trash bins — when they are available.”
While he acknowledges trash can be a problem on big days like Easter, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, Alsop says maintenance at the park is not the biggest problem.
“The real problem is the need for capital improvements: tired picnic tables, bathrooms, playground equipment, infrastructure,” he said. “It’s the same stuff that was out there when I was a kid.”
For Bell’s part, she’s inclined to be charitable, give Alsop some time to get settled into his still-new position, time to dig deep into the issues affecting Hart Park before a longterm vision is crafted and developed.
“We may be expecting to much of Alsop. He’s pretty new,” she told The Californian. “This is probably not on the top of his priority list.”
But make no mistake, Alsop says. It is.
He agrees with Bell that if trash bins at Hart Park are overflowing — at least on big holiday weekends — his staff needs to find out how to get more bins into the park. Or find another way to manage the extra trash.
But in the large scheme, bigger issues are calling his name. Loudly.
“It’s finding the money to bring Hart Park and its facilities up to the standards the people of Bakersfield and Kern County deserve,” he said.
It could involve developing concessions at the park, convincing private-sector stakeholders to join the effort, or finding grant money to help.
It could even mean a $5 parking fee.
If one day Alsop has a legacy as a retired CAO, maybe the most relevant, most tangible aspect of that legacy will be the saving of Hart Park as a jewel for future generations.
He’s all for that.
“We need to find a way,” he said, “to take this puppy home.”
The real problem is the need for capital improvements: tired picnic tables, bathrooms, playground equipment, infrastructure. It’s the same stuff that was out there when I was a kid.” Ryan Alsop, Kern County CAO