By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews)
Source: Needles City Manager Rick Daniels (Information)
Needles, California: The community is joyfully awaiting the kickoff of construction of a new, improve and upgraded playground being constructed near the Needles Skate Park, all part of a larger improvement and upgrade project coming soon to Duke Watkins Park located off J Street.
With many people in the community wanting more information regarding the overall park project as well as want officials to address concerns regarding recent vandalism and graffiti going on at the park, ZachNews Photojournalist Zachary Lopez had an interview with Needles City Manager Rick Daniels discussing a variety of topics regarding Duke Watkins Park and Needles Skate Park located off J Street.
Pictures: City of Needles (Courtesy)
For a long while, the condition of the playground at Duke Watkins Park were in such bad state; from sun damaged due to the extreme heat of the summer and no shade to pieces of the playground equipment disappearing including a kid’s slide, and repeated graffiti and vandalism to the playground area as well as the seating areas and inside the restrooms such as toilets and sinks being smashed to pieces.
The new playground upgrades will include new slides, swings and climbing areas as well as new ground area replacing the sand area of the playground and a overhead covering that will give kids shade as a play on the new playground during the summer.
Along with the new playground upgrades, there will be much more improvements and upgrades coming soon to Duke Watkins Park and Needles Skate Park as part of the overall project, this includes a new splash pad in the shape of the Route 66 logo; new field lighting for the ball fields, renovate the existing basketball court; new BMX type bicycle track that would be constructed along the east side along Flip Mendez Parkway; new road improvements and paving along Flip Mendez Parkway; new parking lot; new shade structures, picnic tables, benches and drinking fountains; adding of a small dog park area near Spikes’ Dog Park; improvements to the restroom; and improvements included paint work to the Needles Skate Park area.
Efforts to secure funding for the park improvements began in 2019 in which the City of Needles facilitated multiple community meetings, including on-site meetings to envision what Duke Watkins Park could become.
Those meetings involved adults mainly from the local area, but special consideration was given to local kids to determine what they wanted in a park.
So after, presentations and documents were prepared and submit with help and support from the community, including Rainie Torrance at the City of Needles, the Needles Unified School District, Robinson’s Electric, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Colorado River Station and Wade Phillips, as well as local kid name Sayla, who was so impress about the need to create this children’s play equipment that she sent out cans for donations at a number of different businesses, and collected $365.00 for the playground.
On Tuesday, September 7th, 2021, the City of Needles accepted a BHHS Legacy Foundation Duke Watkin Park Grant for $110,000 after they submitted in June 2021 a grant application to the BHHS Legacy Foundation (“Legacy”) to partner together to complete much needed improvements at Duke Watkins Park.
The City of Needles had received $181,116 from proposition 68 from per-capita funding opportunity for park improvements or enhancements.
On Wednesday, December 8th, 2021, the City of Needles was awarded a $3.96 million dollars grant for improvements to Duke Watkins Park.
According to Needles City Manager Rick Daniels, “Today Armando M Quintero, Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation announced that the City of Needles is being awarded $3,965,400 to make improvements to Duke Watkins City Park on J Street. The grant comes from Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Grant Program funded by a $2.4B statewide ballot measure approved by the voters in 2018 to renovate and build new parks.”
Pictures: City of Needles (Courtesy)
All of this construction to improve and upgrade Duke Watkins Park will kickoff with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new playground upgrades which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. PT on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022.
ZachNews will be either broadcasting live at ZachNews on Facebook or recording to post later on ZachNews the groundbreaking ceremony of the new playground upgrades.
Needles City Manager Rick Daniels tells ZachNews that officials from the City of Needles and those who worked on and contribute in bringing this project to life are scheduled to be in attendance, and that the community is welcome to attend the event.
With all these improvements and upgrades coming to the Duke Watkins Park and Needles Skate Park area, concerns are being raised about recent vandalism and graffiti attacks on the park as well as on the quality of the footage of the cameras capturing those responsible for these disgraceful, disgusting and criminal behaviors.
ZachNews asked Needles City Manager Rick Daniels about security and policing of the park, including if the quality of footage being captured on the cameras good enough quality to use to go after those responsible for the vandalism and graffiti at the park, and if more security and policing will be added around the park, especially as new improvements and upgrades begin to be constructed.
Needles City Manager Rick Daniels tells ZachNews that “There will be additional protections, and actually I am not going into get into all the details, but suffices to say these cameras recently put up there a major upgrade, and are piped directly into the sheriff’s station (San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Colorado River Station) by the rec center, and we’ll have 24 hour monitoring of the area.”
Needles City Manager Rick Daniels also tells ZachNews that “We’re beefing up the lighting in the area where it’s LED lighting so it will be brighter.”
As for the quality of the footage from those cameras, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels said, “is considered prosecutable quality video.”
When asked if there’s been any arrest related to the graffiti and vandalism at the park, and if they are locals or from our of town, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels tells ZachNews that there are ongoing investigations happening on the different types of vandalisms.
ZachNews then asked if the City of Needles is considering placing a curfew for the Needles Skate Park would be closed overnight.
Needles City Manager Rick Daniels tells ZachNews, “Well each park has its own hours of operations, and typically they are from 10 pm or midnight until 5 am, and those are just the time that the park is closed so there’s no camping, and the park is expected to be vacated during that time. As it relates to the skate park, the council is considering setting hours of 10 pm to 5 am; the skate park is closed, which coincides with curfew that is in affect. So right now it’s labeled Dusk to Dawn but that’s a big term vague term and extensionally it’s difficult to enforce. So what we’re looking at now is a firm 10 pm to 5 am at the skate park.”
When asked how would that be enforced; especially when there’s three openings around the Needles Skate Park, will they be locked, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels tells ZachNews, “it’s ganna rely on routine patrol by the sheriff’s deputies.”
As the construction begins on the improvements and upgrades to our local parks, the community hopes that everybody young and old can enjoy our local parks for years to come.
Thanks to those who helped in getting our community the funds needed so we can improve, upgrade and beautiful our local parks.