San Jose struggles to find money for park maintenance, backlog could close playgrounds

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of San Jose is struggling to find money to keep its parks in shape.

The Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department explained the economic recession made it difficult to maintain park infrastructure. Since then, the department's park maintenance backlog has continued to grow.

On Thursday afternoon, San Jose resident Quang Nguyen and his son Roger hit tennis balls at Grosebeck Hill Park.

"We have to be out. I don't like them in the house," Nguyen said about his children. "There's school and there's sports. That's it."

At the other end of Grosebeck Hill Park is a glimpse of what the City's growing park maintenance backlog could bring.

A fence surrounds the former location of the park's play structure. Signs read, "Playground equipment temporarily closed starting July 2018."

The park's play structure was removed last year because the city couldn't keep up with proper maintenance.

Carolina Camarena with the city's Parks Department explained playgrounds have about a 15-year lifespan.

"Just like our cars, just like our homes, they're pieces of infrastructure that need to be repaired or replaced every so often," she told ABC7 News.

"You've got the effects of the sun, winter and rain," Camarena said. "And the effects of play. They're loved, they're used by our children, and they're used by our families."

Camarena shared numbers on the play structures. She said 81-percent of the city's 283 playgrounds will meet "maximum use" in 2020.

She explained, "Some of our playgrounds will need to be removed because they will be unsafe for our children to play on."

Restoring aged play structures could cost the city $200,000 to $1-million per playground-- money the city doesn't have, to spend.

"I do see that the equipment is expensive," Martin Mullaney told ABC7 News.

The San Jose resident and father was at Rotary PlayGarden with his daughter, on Thursday afternoon.

He said he's noticed aging playgrounds around the city. "Some of the structures are you know, half of it's gone. You don't even know what it used to be. It's just a post, or something they had to take out."

"It goes beyond our playgrounds," Camarena said. "We also have a deferred backlog of maintenance in our parks and our buildings."

She emphasized that San Jose is a big city. "We're built out. 200 parks, 50 community centers, about 60 miles of trails," she said. "And unfortunately, we just don't have the resources to keep up with our aging infrastructure."

Camarena explained the department is looking at system within other cities. She's found many have a parcel tax which allows the enhancement and maintenance of their park systems.

"That might be something that we look at in the future. In the meantime, we'll look at our current capital program to see if there are any funds to replace the playgrounds that need the replacement most," she said.

The Parks Department completes an annual review of the city's 200 parks. The review ranks each park from one to five, based on current conditions.

A summary from 2018 read, "The parks within the PRNS system overall are in acceptable conditions, on average earning a cumulative score of 3.3."

Go herefor those results and for details on how your neighborhood park was ranked.

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