The Huntington Beach City Council is forming a committee to look for solutions to the chronic problems that plague Bartlett Park.
Safety in the heavily wooded park off Adams Avenue and Beach Boulevard has been a concern of neighbors and city officials for years. An apparent murder-suicide there has proved to be somewhat of a tipping point.
Bartlett Park is 30 acres of land heavily covered with trees and bushes. Spiderwebs line the canopy while homeless camps are scattered across the area.
Empty alcohol bottles, mattresses and tattered clothing littered the area where officials found the two bodies in late July.
Council members voted unanimously Monday to create the committee, which will hold quarterly meetings with city staff to help develop the park into a more neighborhood-friendly location.
Council members Jill Hardy, Joe Carchio and Joe Shaw will serve as committee liaisons. Carchio said Wednesday that they look to add about four members from the community to complete the group.
"Bartlett Park has been close to my heart for at least 10 years. I grew up in the general area so I've always been aware of it," Hardy said. "But since I've been on the council, I've tried to figure out what I can do to finish this park."
Carchio said groups like the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club are willing to aid the city in developing the park, but agencies like the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Orange County Parks have hindered progress.
Hardy said that if there was a development plan to improve the park, it would require approval from all the agencies. Additionally, funding for the project would also need to be identified.
"It's hard to put all these folks together," he said. "The residents and the city suffer. They can't use that park."
Carchio toured Bartlett Park in 2006 with former Mayor Gil Coerper and was astonished at what he saw.
"We did have our public works department go in there and clear that area so that police could police it," Carchio said. "But now it's grown back again."
In other news Monday, council members voted to get the ball rolling on a designation for Huntington Beach as a Compassionate City.
Mayor Connie Boardman's item passed 5-2, with Carchio and Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper dissenting, to have c
ity staff work with the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council to draft an action plan.
"Many of the public speakers pointed out that we are a compassionate city in so many different ways," Boardman said. "The city infrastructure itself, by supporting things like Project Self-Sufficiency, our Human Relations Task Force and our Statement of Human Dignity points out that the city itself is compassionate."
She went on to mention that there are many nonprofits and houses of worship in Huntington Beach "that engage in compassionate acts."
Seattle was the first city to proclaim itself a Compassionate City. Louisville, Ky., Houston and Cincinnati have also joined the movement. The process involves applying through the Seattle-based Charter for Compassion group.
Harper is concerned, however, that the city would be affiliated with religions that the public may not agree with.
Carchio said he believed it was unnecessary to have a document stating that Huntington Beach does compassionate acts and that the action of nonprofits and community members is enough evidence for the city.
"Do we really need a compassionate action plan? Is it going to make that much difference in our community? Is it going to make us any better?" he said. "We don't really need a piece of paper to tell us that we care."