Heartwell Park Friends Hold ‘Wake and Walk’

Steve Propes

What is now Heartwell Park was purchased by the City of Long Beach in 1931. In the 1950s, it was popularly known as the Shotgun Strip, a fenced-in government storage yard, used by the Army during World War II and was a buffer to prevent annexation efforts by the City of Lakewood.

It opened to the public with the passage of park bonds in 1956, the Bach Branch Library opened in 1957, a recreation building was constructed in 1964 and on October 24, 1965, a duck pond was created west of Bellflower. In the 1980s, several new soccer fields complemented the 18-hole golf course, baseball diamonds and bicycle and walking trails.

Sounds pretty idyllic, and on a day-to-day basis, it is, notably in the duck pond area. With littering, trees shedding leaves and the occasional branch or two and of course, ducks leaving their waste on the edges of the duck pond, there’s always need for cleanups.

That’s where Friends of Heartwell Park come in. According to Senior Field Deputy for Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, Kyle Henneberque, this advocacy group came into being at a 2018 meeting Mungo held at the Holiday Inn to encourage residents to create such groups. “It’s modeled after other groups, Friends of El Dorado Park East, Friends of El Dorado Park West and possibly Pan American Park, said Henneberque.

Which brings us up to Nov. 9, 2019 when Friends of Heartwell Park held an event they dubbed “Wake and Walk” at Carson Street and Bellflower Boulevard.

It worked. According to designated park angel, Linda Brayton, “40 to 50 people showed up. My sister came from Murietta to help. We handed out big trash bags. Then everybody split up, told people to go right or left, most people went to the duck pond. Only a couple stayed in the sports field area. That area is not so bad now that the little league is gone. About an hour later, everybody called their own time.”

According to Friends of Heartwell Park’s Jacklyn Padgett, it’s an ad hoc group of eight or nine residents that meets regularly to discuss park issues. “There’ve been about three or four meetings. A fire fighter, who saw me in the park all the time, invited me to join the committee. The idea is to gather residents, stay-at-home moms, AYSO, active users of the park and Lakewood Village residents.” As it’s not an official group, only members are at the meetings. Most of the members are from the sports side of Heartwell.

“We want to create something where people have a say,” said Padgett. Asked about the most pressing problems at Heartwell, Padgett referenced the homeless population at the park in daytime hours.

She also would like the community center located at the north end of San Anseline Avenue to be put to greater use. Configured as an office and conference room, with playground equipment on the perimeter, except for the occasional meeting or class, it’s generally not in use as the equivalent center at nearby Wardlow Park, where Mungo has her field office.

The footpath to the bike path from Charlemagne Avenue is finished concrete, easy to walk on, very well laid out. The mirror path linking the same bike path to Stearnlee Avenue is cracked asphalt narrowed by patches of grass. Asked about improving this situation, Mungo asked “Why can’t you use the other path?” That the paths are not linked by a sidewalk, but separated by the flood control channel, makes this solution problematic.

Henneberque referred the issue to Parks and Recreation, which told him the path was put on a list for repair, with seemingly no chance it would be upgraded to concrete.

At various times, the park is used for movies, weddings and wedding receptions, high school cross country meets, Pittsburgh Steelers annual meet-ups and impromptu soccer games, which tend to tear up the turf, creating major dirt swaths. In an effort to discourage this damage, large rocks were brought in, but players were able to move them or dump them into the duck pond.

Padgett would also like to see lighting on the two paths just north of Parkcrest Street. Four years ago, in a community meeting with Mungo, several residents suggested installing solar powered street lights, especially along the pedestrian path near the duck pond. As one said, “We can’t walk at night, it’s so dark.”

The mystery of the gray metal cabinet housing electronics for a never-used traffic sign on Heartwell grounds at the 5300 block of E. Carson Street cost $111,671 installed. A park user wondered whether this control center could be repurposed for lighting near the duck pond.

No one seems to know whether the sign on Carson will be activated, when, or for what purpose. Until then there’s an existing dark sign that’s never been illuminated and a need for park lighting that has not been prioritized, the park user noted.



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