Reflection, Walk #38, Yr 2, Saturday, August 27, 2016, 7:3 a.m. from Ewing Elementary near Olive and Chestnut. Walkers strolled neighborhoods to the south, crossing over Hwy 180 all the way to Kings Canyon Rd and back along busy Chestnut.
Sights: open windows and doors but most with bars and security gates, open garage doors on this beautiful cool morning. These neighborhoods had mix of apartments and older homes, front yard fences, gates, men with shopping cart hanging out at park, people living in/near parks, alleys with heavy trash, dogs running and barking from front yards, houses with many cats, small development of newer stucco houses which stood out from older wooden houses. Unique yards with front yard seating and custom mail boxes. Door with an eviction notice. Abandoned couches on street and on porch. Some streets with large mature trees. People tending their own yards/pruning. Walkway over Hwy 180 with faded graffiti. Asian Supermarket with a display of large photos from Fresno Hmong New Year.
Walkers met Tom who was fixing his own motorized chair in the back alley behind Dollar Tree. He had a tool kit out and finished and wheeled away as we were talking. Walkers met Armando in his front yard. He was selling bicycles that he had fixed up. Armando told us he was retired and this lets him make a few extra bucks.
Walkers entered St. Helen’s Catholic church and were happy the doors were unlocked. Walkers saw a woman sleeping on the steps to the back entrance of St. Helens.
Walkers saw at least a dozen homeless people, pushing or carrying their belongings. In addition, walkers saw numerous signs of bedding and belongings in tucked away places. Walkers saw two men gathering their bedding and belongings from a playground/park next to Kings Canyon Early Start program. Walkers saw a man washing his hair in the outdoor shower at Martin Ray Reilly Park.
Walkers met principal Sherry Tharpe at Olmos Elementary. Sherry and her daughter open the school playground every Saturday morning for Saturday Sports, which are supervised play and activities. Sherry says they get about 100 kids every Saturday morning. (NOTE: Walkers later learned that as principal, Sherry saw how much her students needed a safe place to play on Saturdays, so she and her daughter started ‘volunteering’ in 2011. According to Artie Padlilla of Every Neighborhood Partnership, ENP is working to get a church to ‘adopt’ Olmos and provide community volunteers to run the Saturday Sports program.)
Sounds: roosters, kitchen sounds through open windows, crows, birds, traffic, freeway loud traffic, music in cars, lawn mowers and blowers, front yard fountains, fountain park at Reilly Park, wind chimes, large antenna on house, kids playing at Olmos, morning conversations, people speaking Spanish, shopping carts on sidewalks, Fresno FAX buses pulling into bus stops.
Smells: smoke, garbage bins behind building, fresh cut grass, urine.
Walkers talked at length about not seeing children out playing on a beautiful Saturday morning, even as late at 9:45 am. Walkers saw about a dozen kids playing at Olmos Elementary with supervision. But other than those kids, walkers only saw one teenager playing basketball at Reilly Park. Two walkers had grown up in these neighborhoods in the 80s and shared how they played up and down the streets from early morning to dark. They ran and rode bikes with friends throughout the entire neighborhood. One walker described the whole neighborhood, stretching for many blocks, as his playground.
Walkers talked about the large block wall made even taller with rod iron that separate the house neighborhood from the apartment complex. When walkers were trying to cut through from the neighborhood to Olmos Elementary, they were met with a dead end and large wall. For kids to walk to school at Olmos or to meet up with friends who live on the next block, they have to walk around to busy streets or through the back of the Dollar Tree shopping center to busy Chestnut. Someone had pushed plastic bin up against the wall leading to Olmos, making it easier to climb over the wall.
Walkers discussed possible reasons children aren’t playing outside and at the parks. Walkers witnessed bars and security doors on many if not most houses. Walkers witnessed men, and one woman, living on the streets, many in the parks. Walkers can understand why parents would not want their children unsupervised. Walkers talked about the value of opening school playgrounds for supervised play – not so much to add green space but to have safe space. One walker noted that while there were not kids playing at Reilly Park this morning, he often sees large groups playing basketball and filling the splash park on weekdays.
Walkers remembered that the Asia Supermarket use to be a Toys R Us and the CVS used to be Country Market. Walkers talked about donut shops and ice cream shops they would frequent as children.
A walker shared that these walks aren’t for judging but about understanding and appreciating everything about people.
The walk ends wrapped in this idea: these are our brothers and sisters in Fresno. All of our lives and futures are tied together.
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