Noe Valley Voice September 1998

Neighbors Adopt Two Local Parks

By Mark Robinson

The bathrooms need work, the play structures are old, and the flower beds could use some weeding. So Dorthe Deubler and a group of friends and neighbors who use Douglass Playground and Noe Courts have decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Deubler is co-chair of a new organization founded this summer -- the Noe Valley Neighborhood Parks Improvement Association. So far, the group's dozen or so members have devoted a good deal of time to figuring out how the city's recreation and parks bureaucracy works. They've also compiled a list of ideas for improving Noe Courts -- the small patch of green at the corner of Douglass and 24th streets -- and Douglass Playground, the larger park about three blocks up Douglass Street at Clipper.

The new association is composed mostly of friends and neighbors who met while taking their kids and dogs to the two parks. With the city's Park and Recreation Department inundated with requests for help from other neighborhoods, they decided to get in line as well.

"The city is going to apply its money and resources where things are squeaking," says Deubler, who lives in the 600 block of Douglass Street and takes her 4-year-old daughter and 20-month-old son to one park or the other almost every day. "We just haven't been organized until now."

First of all, the association wants the city to repair and reopen the Noe Courts bathrooms. They've been unusable for decades, having been converted to a storage area in the 1970s. Then the members plan to ask for an increase in maintenance and gardening at both parks, as well as improvements to the play structures at Douglass Playground.

The group will apply for money from the city's open space fund to pay for the bathroom work, even though getting approval to use that money often takes years. "It's just one big ball of red tape," Deubler says.

Meanwhile, the founding members hope to get more of their neighbors involved. To that end, they will sponsor a series of community work days to clean up trash and pull weeds at the parks. "We'll paint out graffiti too," says Deubler. "We've found that you really feel like a park is your own when you clean it up and help take care of it yourself."

On Sept. 26 the association will hold a meeting to recruit new members and solicit other ideas for improving the local parks. Everyone is invited, Deubler says. The meeting will kick off at 4 p.m. at the Noe Valley Library, 451 Jersey St.

One subject Deubler hopes to finesse: the conflict between dogs and kids at Noe Courts.

Over the past year, parents and dog owners in the neighborhood have clashed over whether dogs should be allowed to run off-leash at the small park. Last fall, the city posted signs saying dogs must be leashed at all times, and police have issued a few citations to dog owners who violated that rule.

Deubler says one idea might be to fence off an area within the park for dogs to run free. Or the toddlers could have a small patch of green (in addition to the sandbox area) that's totally off limits to dogs.

A real solution will probably be way down the road -- when park and rec officials build more dog runs for the city's canine population.

"But right now," she says, "we want to try to bring everybody together."

To find out more about the Noe Valley Neighborhood Parks Improvement Association, call Dorthe Deubler at 824-4680.