Brick by Brick
Local groups bring Mexican-style public square to Salinas’ Closter Park.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
One of the most notorious East Salinas neighborhoods is getting a makeover, courtesy of a diverse group of Rotarians bent on making its park a safer gathering place.
Five Salinas Rotary Clubs are pairing with three international rotaries to build a public square – called a kiosko – for parties and family get-togethers at Closter Park.
“Neighbors have been so excited for this,” says Doug Brown, past president of the Rotary Club of Corral de Tierra. Brown has been working almost daily at the park, painting and coordinating the construction of a walkway surrounding a copper-covered stage. “We have already had requests for quinceañeras.”
The square is a staple of neighborhoods in Mexico as a public meeting spot. The Closter Park square tentatively opens June 14.
“It is the most utilized park in the city, but community groups didn’t want to use the park due to fear of violence,” says Salinas City Councilman Tony Barrera, who represents the neighborhood. “The more eyes and ears we have around the park, the more the violence diminishes.”
Dan Oujan agrees. His trains kids in boxing at Closter Park and works in the adjacent tutoring center, which is being expanded and cleaned up in this project.
Alongside city support, the project has garnered financial and material backing from local businesses. The Don Chapin Co. gave cement and sand, while Pacific Interlocking Paver donated stone for the walkway. Other donors have donated money to the nearly $400,000 cause.
The project came about when Brett Harrell, President of Rotary Club of Salinas, wanted to do something local. He talked with Barrera, who recommended Closter Park as a place to clean up. “Doing nothing is not a reasonable alternative,” Harrell says.