OAKHURST — A growing movement to revitalize Oakhurst’s Community Park is taking a giant leap forward on Thursday, Sept. 19, when organizers have planned an evening to “Take Back the Park.”
Starting at 5 p.m., families are invited to bring their blankets, chairs, portable barbeques, sports equipment and whatever else is necessary for the kids to have a fun night out, old-neighborhood style, at the Park.
SNO reader Lenna Pavelich posted about the event on Facebook. “My boyfriend Casey Schuetz and friends have put together what we are calling taking back the park,” says Pavelich, who has a young daughter. “We have invited over 200 people to come with their kids, play football, BBQ and have fun like we did when we were little!”
Within 24 hours social media has taken over, as almost 600 people are now invited to the park via an event page created by Pavelich’s roommate Pamela Kurtley and friend Brian Whitfield for Facebook.
Nearly 100 have pledged to attend so far, with numbers growing every hour. Liberty Party Rentals in Oakhurst has offered to supply a bounce house in support of the festivities.
“Come one, come all, Oakhurst community,” reads the page. “Join the locals as well as the head of the Park Committee and help us enjoy the park the way it should be. Bring the family. This will be the first of many events to come.”
Community Park Committee chair Andrew Pence will be at the event to enjoy the park and continue the dialog which began recently when conditions at the park were deemed intolerable by most standards.
In a meeting last week, Pence and others spoke of the commitment required to upgrade the park from public nuisance central to a place where kids can come and play without fear of a shake-down or worse.
Whether the concern was drugs, dogs or individuals, many agree that the park is mostly inhabited by a group of people who refuse to follow rules. That ever-present reality leaves a lot of moms, kids, joggers and would-be park users out of the loop for fear of their own safety. Pence and others involved with the park are familiar with all the park complaints and seeking sustainable solutions.
The Oakhurst Community Park is somewhat of an anomaly in that it’s a public park on private land, and while professionals are at work trying to figure out what statue will give authorities the break they need to ban repeat offenders from the park, some have banded together in an effort to repopulate the park with families and old fashioned fun.
Casey Schuetz, 36, has lived in the mountain area for twenty years. When his daughter was growing up ten and fifteen years ago, the park was nice and they went there a lot. Now, his girlfriend and her little girl are part of the group who wants to see the park cleaned up and ready for play.
“My girlfriend has a 5-year-old and lately I keep seeing moms posting online that they avoid the park because of the riff-raff, and joggers who don’t feel safe anymore,” says Schuetz, who is in construction and has friends in the business who will attend as well.
Meanwhile, committee chair Pence is in communication with law enforcement and the park Board of Directors.
“Everybody has the same idea of wanting to make the park a better place,” says Schuetz. “If we want it,” he says referring to the space itself, “we have to start going out there.”
Schuetz says organizers are already thinking about plans for events at the park, where car shows, concerts and even Easter Egg Hunts were once held, but no more.
From the looks of the event on Facebook, people are pretty excited about heading to the park, and Schuetz is confident it’s the right thing to do.
“Thursday night will be the safest night there in a long time.”
Visit Facebook to see and join the Event Page.