ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Neighbors say it only took months after Lavaland re-opened two years ago for problems to resurface. Even after the city added fencing with locking gates, lighting, and a new playground, neighbors say they still won’t let their kids go there. “They do ask us to go, we end up having to take a drive to a park instead of being able to walk to the park,” said Herrera. “My son asks me all the time how come we can’t go to the park? Because there’s a lot of dangerous things now because you know the homeless. You don’t know what if they go into the playground and they poke themselves with something, it’s too scary to be in a park nowadays,” added Hernandez.
Video shows what appears to be paraphernalia being passed around by a group of people living in the park, just what neighbors say they fear. I get so scared, we walk over there, one minute you see other people all in their tents or someone doing a drug and I tell my kids no, let’s go back home because it’s scary,” Hernandez said. Neighbors say Lavaland Park isn’t the only park with the same problems. “I see the same problem in all the other parks so what I had to do as my solution is, I got a little playset for my children and a swing set because it’s too scary for them to go play in the park,” Hernandez added.
Some of these parks include Robinson Park near 8th and Central and Coronado park near McKnight Avenue where tents are also a common sight. Neighbors say they believe the city is letting the homeless live in the parks. David Simon, Director for Parks and Recreation says that’s not the case. “The homeless have not taken over Coronado, we are managing the site, we thoroughly clean it once every two weeks. What we have here is a temporary situation that’s better than the alternative, which is to have many homeless encampments throughout the neighborhood,” said Simon.
Simon reminds people it’s not illegal for the homeless to be in parks during the day. Despite what video shows and what neighbors say, the Parks and Recreation Director says he believes Lavaland park only has about five percent of the problems that it used to. “Before our new approach Lavaland was wide open for encampments and we’ve sealed it off and took care of 95 percent of that problem through the new fences and gates that we installed. I think that a situation that proves that with the right resources and approach, we can make a difference for improving the security and safety of parks,” said Simon.