They love their community and they want to make their parks and playgrounds safe again.

That’s why volunteers with O-CAT, the Oildale Community Action Team, spend lots of time cleaning up Oildale's green spaces north of the river.

They did it again early Tuesday — at Sears Park on Norris Road, and Standard Park, east of Standard Elementary School. 

What they found — and they find it almost every time they go — would make any parent think twice before letting their children run and play and frolic in these once-welcoming parks.

"We find syringes, needles, all sorts of drug paraphernalia," said Donna Clopton, founder and president of the group that also cleans trashed alleys and vacant lots, works with county code enforcement and law enforcement, paints over graffiti, and generally tries to improve the quality of life in Oildale.

But the quality of life at the parks has been sliding, she said.

They find people sleeping on or under the children's toys. And as they fanned out Tuesday, the pile of intravenous drug paraphernalia began to pile up.

There was the bottom of an aluminum can cut short and sharp to make a pan to "cook" heroin. There were numerous cotton swabs, needle caps, prescription bottles and more.

One of the volunteers, Stefani Yoder, owner of nearby Glamtic antiques and furnishings, said she's seen a disturbing increase in problems, often related to drug abuse and people living on the streets and in the parks.

"There's an increased need to get everyone involved," she said.

"There are a lot of honest, hard-working people in this community. It's a shame we can't utilize our parks out of fear for the safety of our families.

"It's important," she said, "that we come together as a community and help out as best we can."

Another volunteer, Dave Kadel, associate pastor at Lifehouse Church, climbed a ladder to look on the roof of the North of the River Creative & Community Services building.

"I see four ... five, six, seven syringes," he said.

"It seems like the drug paraphernalia has just ramped up. It keeps ramping up more," he said. "We've come out here five or six consecutive days, and every day we find paraphernalia and needles."

The work they're doing is not being done in a vacuum. 

O-CAT is working in partnership with other grass roots groups, including Oildale Prevention Partnership, to complete garbology surveys in Oildale parks as a way of collecting valuable data. They keep track of the trash they collect, especially the syringes, hypodermic needles and other narcotics paraphernalia.

"Everything is data-driven," Kadel said.

By providing hard data to government, and the evidence to back it up, they are more likely to be able to convince authorities to help.

Sgt. Richard Anderson, a 20-plus year veteran of the Kern County Sheriff's Office, is also president of the Kern Law Enforcement Association, a union for local law enforcement officers.

Speaking only on behalf of the KLEA, Anderson said he helped out on a similar cleanup in Oildale.

"I was outraged," he said of his reaction to finding crack pipes, used needles and more.

Leaving used needles on the ground or in the wood chips that make up the ground cover beneath the children's toys at Sears Park — it's a public health hazard, Anderson said. And it's not fair to families who deserve a safe place to bring their kids.

"This is not a housing crisis," he said of the homeless problem at the parks and on the streets. "It's a mental health and a drug addiction crisis."

Longtime Oildale resident Debra Hunter said she remembers coming to Sears Park to celebrate family birthdays and other special occasions.

"This was the park we came to back in the day," she said. "It's really upsetting.

"Everyone used to come here for birthday parties. The kids could run around and play. That's what you're supposed to be able to do.

"But you can't do that anymore."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(7) comments

REMUDA

Good folks have always picked up after 'bad'. Yes, selfish "addicts of choice" (many of wealth) . . . unlike inherited cancer-sufferers leave their "hazardous waste" behind for others to manage for safety, security and serenity. Seems as though many 'faith-based' drug-abuse rehab 'First Responders' have always led the way for civic-minded neighbors (& Gov) to pitch in.

'Guilt' is real and works wonders.

Moardeeb

And yet I see no contact info on how to help or volunteer.



Hey North High! How about some energetic teenagers out there volunteering?

Rie60

Are you kidding remember the teenagers are busy jumping a mother at the skate park. Whatever happened to those idiot girls?

Donna

You are invited to attend our monthly meeting at North High School October 29, 2019 at 6:15 pm

We meet in B-Hall Room 75

BobPrange

If there is a good part to this story it is the residents taking initiative and working together to improve the conditions of their neighborhood and parks for children and their families. Great to see this type of synergy and collaboration. They don’t need a glossy brochure spouting goals and activities to impress others (versus an agency). It sounds like the residents have been taking care of their neighborhood on their own for a very long time. Hopefully they will get some help – long term legitimate help – not temporary help while the media is focused on the story. I say congratulations to the residents for your synergy and collaboration. Not every neighborhood works together like this. Good luck with everything.


lrlopez74

I was born and raised in Oildale and with family members who have battled drug addiction for decades. How do we end the drug addiction crisis? Treat drug addiction like a medical issue rather than a moral or a religious issue. Religious-based recovery programs DO. NOT. WORK. and more often than not only make the problem worse. Making drug addicts feel guilty is not a solution. Addicts are already wracked with guilt. You would never tell a cancer patient to just stop having cancer. It makes no sense to tell addicts to "just quit." Oildale's right wing conservative Christian ideology has only exacerbated the problem of poverty and addiction. It's not just your fault, addicts. A system that pushes poor people into addiction is to blame.

Abby

I like the thought of this....you take pride in the place you live so you work to make it livable.

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