Last summer using Library Park was anything but a family outing.
Panhandlers were approaching families who brought their kids down to use the playground equipment. The homeless and borderline homeless were spending their days sitting and laying on tables in large groups. Some citizens complained of prostitution. Others had issue with the needles and filthy conditions in the restrooms.
Today, it’s a different story.
You will still occasionally find a homeless person or two relaxing under the towering sycamore trees at Library Park or nearby at Wilson Park, but they aren’t creating a nuisance.
Credit to an ongoing effort between the police and community groups to help the homeless who are willing to get off the street or to at least follow the rules coupled with the concurrent crackdown on those who are homeless and opt to ignore common decency and laws in general.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion believes people should feel safer and definitely not intimidated if they venture to the downtown park.
“The warmer weather is a big test,” Obligacion said of whether the park will again be saturated with homeless individuals.
And although the interactive water feature won’t be coming back on this year due to the drought, Library Park offers an idyllic place in the shade, murals, two playground areas, and a gazebo that is often the locale of low-key entertainment.
Police have indicated they intend to stay on top of Library Park to make sure it is inviting for families.
One way to accomplish that is the city’s policy of keeping the park restrooms locked up except during special events. That, however, shouldn’t preclude families from using the park. If they need to go to the restroom, all they have to do is walk to the nearby Manteca Library, ask to borrow as restroom key, and use the facilities there.
The policy should keep the park much more pleasant given it effectively takes away the uncontrolled public restroom that drug users, homeless and otherwise, were using to shoot up drugs and leave their needles behind.
A few homeless will occasionally ask for the key to the library restroom but they treat the facility there with respect. Essentially, the ongoing campaign to address the homeless issue has for the most part run off those that might be a bit out-of-control from Library Park.