Lotz: Political leaders ignored maintenance of parks and historic sites | Opinion

After too many years of neglect, our public parks and recreation facilities are finally receiving their long-awaited renovations and upgrades across the island.

Construction is underway with repairs to the breakwater at Saluglula Pool in Inalåhan which will be followed shortly by work to the north on Ipan Beach in Talo’fo’fo. Sixteen washrooms in the park have recently been upgraded along with several basketball courts. Solar lamps have been installed in 19 parks.

Our last major park improvement was at Nimitz Beach 25 years ago, in 1996. Without proper ongoing maintenance, these improvements will deteriorate too quickly and return to where we started – destroyed parks.

Most of these improvements could have been avoided had park maintenance at the Department of Parks and Recreation been properly funded and staffed, along with professional leadership. But that hasn’t been the case for too long.

Our political leaders have quite simply ignored the necessary maintenance of our parks and historic sites which should be a showcase for the island. We apparently have a negligent mindset, and then we get federal funds to fix the usual political grandstanding.

A key indication of our island pride is how we nurture and showcase what we consider important. The majority of our parks and unique heritage resources are maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation. This includes, among our more than 70 parks: Ypao Beach in Tumon; Paseo de Susana, Angel Santos Park and San Antonio Bridge in Hagåtña; Fort Santa Agueda in Agana Heights; Tepungan beach in Piti; Nimitz Beach in Hågat, Fort Soledad in Humåtak; Talo’fo’fo Beach Park; and the Limtiaco public cemetery in Piti.

Resources

From 1984 to 1996, I had the good fortune to hold the position of parks administrator when we had approximately 90 employees to maintain our parks. This included grounds maintenance personnel, equipment operators, plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, building trades, garbage collectors and supply personnel as well as a backhoe, a tipper, an overhead forklift, refuse collection vehicles and lawn tractors.

An important point for park maintenance is to have all the necessary resources in the department to ensure that our parks are safe, clean and attractive for our use – which we have done.

Today, the Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance staff is down to 12 without heavy equipment. Fortunately, there was community assistance from various groups and our village mayors.

We are additionally fortunate that the current manager, Roque Alcantara, has extensive maintenance experience to do the job. But he’s struggling to acquire the resources to maintain the park we expect. It was so easy that the components needed to maintain the park were just aside, but difficult to rebuild.

With the park maintenance budget allocated annually by the Guam Legislature, I recommend that an effort be made to significantly increase park resources in increments of 20 maintenance employees per year for four years with a corresponding increase of equipment and supplies.