For troubled spot in Glendale park, a little tai chi may be in order

A shuttered basketball court at Brand Park that was once a magnet for loitering, illegal smoking and fighting -- including a 2007 drive-by shooting -- may be reincarnated as a calmer recreational retreat: a tai chi garden.

The basketball court and a small parking lot on 12,000 square feet of Brand Park have been closed since 2007 as vandalism there got uncontrollable, but even though the court has no hoops, vandals continue to hang around. It was the site of a stabbing in 2011, according to a city report.

But if the city took back the land and swapped part of the concrete pads for a garden with a feng-shui design that could be used by residents who wanted to relax, officials determined that it could breathe life back into the area.

“Instead of excluding the bad guys, let’s include the good people,” said Park Services Manager Chris Peplow at a Parks, Recreation & Community Services Commission meeting this week.

The commission on Monday unanimously gave Peplow the go-ahead to look into the proposal, with cost evaluations and timelines to be presented at a later date. Peplow plans to do the project in-house and use recycled city materials — including boulders from Deukmejian Wilderness Park and wood chips from city sites — to save money.

Several commissioners applauded the idea, especially if it would discourage vandals who are currently “impossible to get rid of,” Peplow said.

“That’s enough for me,” said parks Commissioner Dottie Sharkey.

Tai chi is a meditative exercise aimed at improving health and relaxation. The Chinese practice would fit well in Brand Park, since Asian influences are already on site at the Japanese teahouse, officials said. A tai chi group already meets weekly by the teahouse and nearby koi pond.

The proposed garden may include a waterfall, wood benches, plants and other elements — a reference to the five elements of feng-shui design: earth, wood, water, fire and metal.

Years ago, the city mitigated the loss of Brand Park’s basketball court by building another one at Griffith Manor Park about two miles away. But that court has had its own issues.

In March, Glendale police and parks officials announced they were working together to start a basketball league there to curb gang activity, but the league failed to get off the ground due to lack of participation, said Community Services Supervisor Gabrielle Goglia.

“It just didn’t take off,” she said, adding that parks officials didn’t try again in the fall because of the lack of interest.

Glendale Police Officer Josh Luna, who supported the league at the March meeting, said the department still maintains extra patrols, which have led to lower crime rates at the location, even without the league.


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