Richmond park to open Saturday in revitalization of area

RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) – Santa Fe Union Park will open its doors on Saturday in Richmond to children, marking yet another park that has been revitalized in recent years to help better the city.

According to Richmond Police, the area near 2nd and Maine sat vacant for about two decades, and saw its share of crime and drug use until a community effort began the park’s transformation.

Linda Whitmore with the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council said the park was a collaboration effort between various groups and businesses.

She and her husband rallied businesses in the neighborhood to raise funds for the project, along with the non-profit group For Richmond.

“They took the lead and helped get corporate sponsors together and really pulled this park together for us,” Whitmore said of the group For Richmond.

Whitmore credited the Contra Costa Building Trades Council who came in on weekends and volunteers’ numerous hours to build the park.

“It’s kind of like early Christmas and we are un-wrapping our park for the neighborhood,” Whitmore said. “It’s really exciting.”

In the past few years, Richmond has seen the revitalization of at least seven parks in area where violent crime, drug use, or prostitution was prevalent.

Richmond Police Captain Mark Gagan said the changes in city parks began with re-opening of Nevin Park in 2009.

“It was the epicenter of violence,” Gagan said. “Now it is a jewel called Nevin Park.”

Gagan said after two years of building and $8 million later, the park has seen a significant reduction in crime.

Prior to the remodel there were 665 crimes reported and 13 homicides in 2008. In the year following the remodel, the crimes reported dropped to 262 and police investigated only one homicide.

“When parks aren’t well maintained and controlled they become magnets for that type of behavior and once you get the community to take back the parks it just displaces that behavior to another area and improves the [current] area,” he said.

The transformation of tennis courts, the Bay Trail, and other parks have since followed as part of a bigger plan to create a better Richmond.

The hope for Santa Fe Union Park is that it becomes a popular area for children to use its playground, soccer field and basketball court.

“It helps the children, it helps the neighborhood and it benefits everybody,” she said.

In addition to the improvements at Santa Fe Union Park, the police department said they will begin to recruit park rangers within the next two weeks.

Their purpose will be to patrol parks in the city and provide a presence for the community to feel safe.

Santa Fe Union Park opens Saturday, July 18 at noon.