From the Petroleum Club on the 12th floor of its building on California Avenue, one gets an unexpected view of Bakersfield. We have many more trees than we see from the ground. It is a perspective that is a pleasant surprise. One of the other aspects of Bakersfield we don’t appreciate enough is the parks that dot our neighborhoods. Some of the older ones are jewels and the newer ones are maturing into places to be treasured. The revitalization of Hart Park is an opportunity we should encourage.
Recently there was a petition started to update and repair the stage at Jastro Park on Truxtun Avenue. I haven’t examined it personally but the locals feel it is in need of some repair. I live not too far from Beale Park south of Bakersfield High School and I would like to add it to the list of parks in need.
For many years the city of Bakersfield has sponsored Sunday evening Summer Band Concerts at the Greco-Roman peristyle stage in Beale Park and they are very well attended (unless it is 106 degrees when even then the diehards show up). They are so well attended that they exceed its real capacity and half or more of the people can’t see or hear very well because they are on the grass behind the berm supporting the concrete seats.
During the week, those seats serve another purpose. Because of their design, they provide a hidey-hole for other, less desirable activities. The seats and the concrete half circle at the bottom can’t be seen from the street and provide a perfect place for illegal camping, drug dealing and assignations (there’s an old-fashioned word for you).
I propose the City Parks Department completely take out the seats right down to the concrete half circle and smooth out the dirt to form a gently sloping grass fan up to the existing level of the park and thus open up the stage. There are already frequent weddings, dance recitals and other events there that would be better served by a new design and the Summer Band concerts would be much better.
It would also be much easier for a passing patrol car to oversee what is or isn’t happening at the stage.
I am sure purists will object that it will ruin the classic lines of the stage that has been around for more than 100 years. But one look at the accompanying photo will show that the stage has already been massively changed. The fountain that originally sat in the middle of the half-circle is gone (you can still clearly see its outline in the concrete today). The urns in the niches are gone, and a wall has been built behind the columns to project sound, all of which completely change the original look of a Greco-Roman peristyle. You wouldn’t get a fight from me if the city decided to return it to its original look, but that might require a vision greater than I expect to see.
Beale Park is very heavily used. There are more family birthdays, barbecues, and other holidays celebrated there than most any other park I know of. Parks like Beale, Jastro and Jefferson are places to be celebrated and every step should be taken to make them more inviting to our residents. It seems to me this is an easy step in that direction which would make the use of the stage available to more people and keep the neighborhood safer at the same time.
Here’s my modest proposal: That the city of Bakersfield remove the concrete steps from the stage at Beale Park to be replaced by a grassy fan, which would increase community use and the safety of the area.