Reflection, Walk #10, Year 2, December 5, 2015, 8:30 a.m: On a cold clear morning, three mindfulness walkers met outside the fence of Wilson Elementary at Ashlan and Hughes. We had to park across the street in front of apartments since all the school parking spaces were gated and locked. Within a four mile walk, there were five Fresno Unified Schools: three elementary, one middle, and one continuation high school. Walkers strolled through smaller single-family homes, apartment complexes, along the canal, and the retail on Dakota and Ashlan.
Words used to describe this walk: Transitional –the time of year of change, the beautiful fall colors and crunch of leaves under our feet. Contrasts – the contrast of quiet residential neighborhoods in close proximity to the traffic and businesses on Ashlan and Dakota. Neighborhood schools – so many schools tucked right into Fresno neighborhoods.
Walkers talked about the fenced and locked school campuses. Five school campuses on this walk were locked. FMWalkers walk across open campuses whenever possible, but this morning, all were locked. At Roeding Elementary, three boys were inside on skateboards, and we later realized that they easily fit under the driveway gate. When the boys saw us trying to find a way in, they stopped riding their skateboards as if we were going to get them in trouble.
One FMWalker was here visiting from Texas. She said it seemed strange for all the schools to be locked up. She is used to seeing kids shoot hoops and play freely on sports fields and playgrounds after school and on weekends. She says, “school grounds are just part of the life of a neighborhood.” One FMWalker recently talked with a Fresno Unified school maintenance worker who said that if they leave the gates open, on Monday mornings, they find trash, graffiti, people sleeping in the school hallways, and unsanitary playground issues that have to be cleaned up before the kids use them. Recently, someone stole a newly installed drip watering system. So they make sure and lock the gates when leaving each evening–for legitimate reasons.
Walkers noted that on some Saturday mornings, there are a few school grounds that are supervised and open for Saturday Sports, and there are volunteers organizing sports and crafts with kids from 10 to 12 noon. Also, when sports leagues use the school grounds, gates are open.
Walkers agreed that these are very walkable areas – nice sidewalks with large trees which make it feel like a neighborhood. Sidewalks welcome you to go from place to place on foot. There were at least two parks, Wilson Park next to Wilson Elementary and Quigley Playground next to Williams Elementary. Wilson seemed only to be a fenced-in ponding basin. Quigley Playground had open green space with playground and amenities on the edge. Parks were fenced in with small openings to walk through. No parking except for street parking.
FMWalkers strolled along the canal, which was flowing with water! There was a small homeless encampment with tarps and personal belongings piled in shopping carts. A black wheelchair sat next to a tent opening. Walkers saw at least two people just waking up and coming out from tents and under tarps.
Across from Williams Elementary was a small strip mall that includes Dakota Market, a small store selling junk food, liquor, and smoking paraphernalia. Walkers introduced ourselves to the gentleman working behind the counter, but he did not return the introduction.
Next to Dakota Market is the Gillis Branch of the Fresno County Library. A few doors down was a used book sale with proceeds to benefit the Friends of the Fresno County Library. Walkers met Janice Romero-Nielsen, a volunteer for Friends of the Library. Janice explained that the book sale was primarily to put books into the hands of as many people as possible. They keep them cheap so everyone can own a book.
At Dakota and Hughes, FMWalkers strolled the property of Dakota EcoGarden. This is a private home and property that has been opened for people living on the streets. Walkers met Beverly who unlocked the gate and let us in. Walkers met a few residents, saw the garden, the newly installed outdoor shower, and toured inside the house with a shared kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and computer rooms. Walkers met Pat, age 77, who lived near the canal and in parks for 6 months before coming to EcoGarden 2 weeks ago. She feels safe here. With her small income, she hopes to be able to get a place on her own soon. Pat told Walkers she is educated and loves when people give her books. She looks forward to having a place where she can read and continue her own education.
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.This entry was posted in Uncategorized