Community

Locals say Applegate Park is getting bad. But that’s not why the city put up a fence

Merced CA park has history of homeless camp, neighbors say

A fence placed around a gazebo at Applegate Park is meant to help the grass grow and is not a deterrent to the homeless people who often sit under its shade, according to Merced city officials on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
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A fence placed around a gazebo at Applegate Park is meant to help the grass grow and is not a deterrent to the homeless people who often sit under its shade, according to Merced city officials on Thursday, June 13, 2019.

A new fence sprung up this week around the Applegate Park gazebo where neighbors say homeless people sit and sleep around the clock.

The fence is not meant to run off homeless people though, according to City Manager Steve Carrigan, but rather help regrow grass on the “scorched earth” around the gazebo.

Carrigan said the fence went up on Tuesday and is expected to stay up for about two months.

“People do go out there for wedding photos (and) anniversary photos, and we do get a lot of requests from people to go out there and use it for photos,” he said. “I just thought it was a bad look.”

The City Council routinely hears complaints about Merced’s homeless problem and the past couple of months have been no different. A number of residents have spoken publicly about the tents and trash in Applegate Park that they attribute to homeless people.

City leaders have said solving homelessness will require both a compassionate approach and a citywide effort. Running homeless people out of one area doesn’t solve the problem.

“They need resources and solutions instead of just moving them around,” Carrigan said.

The city recently replaced an aging play structure in the park and did work on the nearby rose garden. The historic Laura’s Fountain is next up for improvements, officials said.

Neighbors to the park on Thursday declined to give their names to the Merced Sun-Star but said they often have safety concerns. They said they’ve seen people near the gazebo who appeared to be doing illicit drugs.

Several neighbors said they have recently decided to start a Neighborhood Watch Program of their own. The problems at the park have intensified in the past two years, they said.

The number of people in Merced County who are homeless rose by more than 18 percent this year up to 607, according to an annual tally released in March.

In the city of Merced, the total fell from 310 in 2018 to 295 this year, the annual report showed.

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