Neighborhood Lesson in Civics : Park Name Goes Beyond Child's Play

Times Staff Writer

Grownups! They do the darndest things.

Just ask the kids living south of Ghar High School, where a new park is being built.

Adults in the neighboring tract do not like the name favored by the kids and picked by the City Council for the 4 1/2-acre park.

"As far back as I can remember, we simply called it The Field," said 17-year-old Bobby Pajan. "It's a perfect name for the park . . . but adults think they know what's best."

The debate about the council's decision last month to name the plot The Field has indeed gone beyond child's play. It has consumed portions of two recent council meetings, and at least one resident has threatened to pack the council chambers with "noisy children" if the name is changed.

"The kids have their hearts set on calling it The Field," said Grace Pajan, who has pushed for a park on that site ever since she and her husband moved to the neighborhood 17 years ago.

For years, the site was simply dirt and tumbleweeds, a place where Pajan's three children and their friends gathered after school and on weekends to play, ride bicycles or hit baseballs.

Field Holds Many Memories

"It was always 'Hey, Mom, I'm going to The Field.' That's why the name means so much to them," Pajan said. "The Field has so many memories . . . so let the kids have their way."

That's what council members thought they were doing after several hundred ballots were sent to area homeowners and none of the six suggested names--Sierra, Rosewood, Rose, Challenger, Olympic and Constitution--was as popular as The Field. It was not even listed as a choice but received the most votes as a write-in, city officials said.

"To me, The Field was the favorite," Councilwoman Ann B. Joynt said.

So the council, being good sports and politically shrewd, voted to name the city's 24th park The Field, much to the delight of the kids.

But not all residents in the nearby housing tract--west of Eric Avenue at Rose Street--were thrilled.

Several complained that the name was too nondescript, too obscure.

They asked the council to reconsider and give the site a more identifiable or memorable name.

At one recent meeting, George Sturm, who lives on Rose facing the park entrance, said the city's first stab at sampling neighborhood sentiment on the issue was spotty. Last weekend he began going door to door solicit ing suggestions for a new park name. Sturm is expected to report his findings to the council at its next meeting June 18.

Because it is a neighborhood park, Councilwoman Diana Needham said she wants the homeowners to choose the name. She added that The Field is "not the most exciting name" and "I would be pleased if the neighborhood came up with a stronger alternative."

Since the early 1970s, the city's General Plan has called for a park in the neighborhood. But it was not until last fall that the council finally took steps to build it.

Pajan contends that it was done to placate area residents who were angry over the council's decision to allow a nine-story office building--the tallest in the city--just behind their homes.

Council members deny the allegation. Nonetheless, Pajan and others in the tract had suggested that the $566,000 park should be called Payoff Park.

$1-a-Year Lease

It is being built on surplus Artesia Cemetery District land, which the city is leasing for $1 a year for 20 years. Officials said the park, including a basketball court, a children's play area and barbecues, should be finished in October.

Whether it will still be known as The Field is uncertain.

Changing the name at this point, Pajan said, will be a poor lesson in civics for the kids in the neighborhood.

"I've always taught my children that once a decision is made, you stick with it," Pajan said. "But I guess this won't be the first time kids see adults say one thing and do the other."

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