Some parents are concerned about drug paraphernalia and other dangers lingering in San Diego parks where children play, and a Pacific Beach mother is has a plan to get the problem under control.
Sandy Algra and her son Willem go to parks across the city, typically five days a week.
While her 3-year-old’s playground time brings him joy, Algra was terrified at what he found back in December at Liberty Station Park.
“I hear my son say, ‘Hey mom, what’s this?’ And I turn around and I just think to myself, 'Please let it be a pen. Please let it be a pen.'”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Sandy says Willem found a syringe in the park and scratched himself. He’s okay, but he ended up with a hospital visit and constant check-ups.
“You have to take their baseline and check every six months to make sure of Hepatitis C and H.I.V… that those things aren’t elevated later on," Algra said.
The dangerous find sped Sandy’s plan to draft a proposed ordinance that would make park playgrounds dedicated children’s areas in San Diego.
Adults would still be able to use the parks, but like in New York City and Hollywood, Florida, it would be illegal, where posted, for any adult without a child to enter and stay in the playground area.
“I don’t want to make it a homeless issue because that changes the tenor of it," Algra said. "I’m trying to focus on the children's safety. These spaces are designed for them. It’s built for them and maintained for them."
In just a few days, Algra's Change.org petition supporting the ordinance has garnered more than 1,000 signatures and the support of the Pacific Beach Town Council.
Town Council President Brian White said he's fed up with reports of syringes found on sidewalks and in parks.
“This is an attempt to do something. To give parents some kind of recourse when they encounter unsafe situations or problematic individuals hanging out in playground areas when they shouldn’t be,” White said.
Algra said after finding that syringe at Liberty Station park, she's never going back. She’s concerned about all of the city's parks after seeing human feces and encampments at others.
Algra and White plan to meet and work with city leaders to try and get the proposed ordinance passed by the San Diego City Council.
A spokesman for the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department sent a statement that reads in part:
“There are currently no plans for the city to restrict access to children's play areas in the city of San Diego. The department will continue to provide safe and inviting spaces for the public to enjoy."