Denair Park takes up just two acres of land in downtown and in the scope of Turlock parks, it is one of the smaller sites, but for the businesses and residents surrounding it, the park has become a massive conveyor of problems.
The nuisances and safety concerns have reached such a level that the Turlock City Council is prepared to take up the matter at the upcoming Tuesday night meeting. In preparation for the City Council meeting, members of the Turlock Police Department and other city officials met with community members Thursday night at the Turlock Senior Center to discuss the myriad of concerns and complaints popping up over the denizens frequenting the park.
“These are societal issues we are talking about and we can’t solve all of them on our own, but we can address it in our own community,” said Turlock Police Capt. Carl Nielsen.
Problems ranging from litter to blatant drug use to thefts have been plaguing the park area for some time now and an approximate 100 individuals took the opportunity at Thursday night’s meeting to vent their frustrations.
“It’s no longer a public park. It’s a public nuisance,” said Rhonda Lucas, who sends her kids to nearby Sacred Heart School.
While the park is frequented by some homeless individuals, especially on Tuesdays when a church comes out to feed people, the majority of the problems are being caused by a small criminal element, Nielsen said.
Several business owners said they are losing revenue because their customers see the area as unsafe to visit and they are weary of the thefts and almost daily barrage of garbage and human excrement left around their shops.
“It was my dream to have a business on Main Street,” said Angela Cotta, owner of Cotta’s Kitchen. “We opened in January and put up video cameras and they were stolen two days later.”
Cotta said she would love to see more children playing in the park, but what she sees instead is “defecation, fornication, drug use, battery and thievery.”
Dr. Michael Ratto, who has a dental office on Crane Avenue, said he is so exasperated by the constant problems that he only sees one option left.
“I cannot tolerate it anymore,” Ratto said. “The only solution I have is to move away from downtown.”