Reflection: Walk #34, Yr 2, Saturday morning, June 18, 2016, four FMWalkers met in front of Forestiere Underground Gardens at 8 a.m. Gardens were closed but walkers chatted with workers getting ready for a busy day of tours. Shaw was already busy with traffic, and it was already getting warm.
Walkers commented on the mix and variety, quality, and uniqueness of elements of this busy area of Shaw and Hwy 99 along with old and new neighborhoods tucked just south of the busy intersection. These are Central Unified school district neighborhoods, and walkers saw Teague Elementary School undergoing major renovations. Older homes on streets with dirt sidewalks bump up against Shaw, Golden State Hwy, and Hwy 99. Within a block, neighborhoods transition into newer, sub-division developments. Behind the Sikh Temple, walkers noted a number of boarded up/neglected homes and a block later, newer development with Sales Office advertising new home sales.
The biggest surprise to walkers was the amazing Inspiration Park and Donovan Maldonado Community Center. This sprawling park bumps up against the Central Unified district offices near Polk and Gettysburg. Inspiration Park is a fully accessible park including multiple playgrounds, water/splash park, sports fields, covered picnic areas, walking paths, musical and tactile play features, large chalk graffiti wall, and a long row of all-accessible swings. Walkers read the plaque naming the community center for Donovan Maldonado, the 7-year old boy struck and killed by Central High Varsity Boys Basketball Coach, Loren LeBeau. This is an amazing park, a stand-out feature for the entire Fresno community. The community center houses a Boys & Girls Club, and a B&GC van was parked in the parking lot.
Walkers were also thrilled to enter Central Community Church and meet Brian Henry and Todd Nunn on Polk just south of Shaw. Brian and Todd were setting up for Vacation Bible School to begin the next week. Walkers learned how this church is impacting their neighborhood! This church serves by working with the Highway City Thrift Store, Habitat for Humanity, Fresno Housing Authority, Fresno County Library, Bitwise, Building Healthy Community, and on and on. Great work going on here!
Sights: amazing Inspiration Park, Central Community Church, Sikh Temple, yard sales, dirt sidewalks, nicely landscaped sidewalks, fruit trees, houses for sale, neglected homes, few front yard dogs, some front yard fences, people sitting on front porches.
Sounds: The constant hum of freeway traffic, street traffic, busy intersection, music from car windows, music from houses, and music blaring from a boombox at Inspiration Park as a father reserved tables for a birthday party. Because of the early morning cool air, walkers heard breakfast dishes and conversations through open windows.
Smells: exhaust from freeway and Shaw traffic. Dusty roads and sidewalks. Urine on the freeway overpass. Breakfast foods. Indian food/spices.
Walkers met Louis and JR selling BBQ tools from their front yard on Polk Ave. Louis has lived here 34 years, and says that the corner is busy and loud so it’s not always great to live on this corner. JR was walking on his way to catch the FAX bus at Shaw and 99 to spend his day at ARC. JR says that his ARC program helps maintain Inspiration Park. FMWalkers were greeted by everyone we met with smiles and morning greetings.
Feelings: Walkers commented that they felt invigorated by the breeze and early morning cool air, taking in all the contrasts. Walkers described these neighborhoods as better than imagined, and that there were feelings of community with signs of people active at the church, school, yard sale conversations, and sitting on front porches. Walkers talked about the variety of home conditions from block to block, noticing that roofs need repair, porches sagging, and garage doors needing paint.
Walkers also talked with sadness about the Shaw and Hwy 99 on/off ramps, with abandoned corner lots and boarded up and dilapidated buildings. This off ramp is the first impression of many people just passing through Fresno. Motels and fast food restaurants are quick stops, but there isn’t much to entice quick-stop travelers to consider spending more time and money in Fresno.
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.
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