After the April 2 and May 7 Valley Voice articles concerning Mooney Grove, complaints about the park have continued.
Pam Mayo decided to take her foster child to Mooney Grove and ended up regretting her decision.
“I am a CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children,” she said. “The judge orders a CASA for foster children who have had an extremely hard time. Her safety and happiness is with animals, who never let her down. Can you imagine taking an already broken child to THAT pond?
“Water covered in algae and several large dead fish floating with the ducks. The banks of the pond were littered with dead animals…including big black rats. My child came from a violent background and I was trying to figure out what to say. She seemed frozen. While I was trying to talk to her, my little dog jumped into the pond but I pulled her out before her face hit the water. We stopped at the ticket taker’s place (on the way out) and I asked him why the dead animals weren’t picked up and the diseases that had to be prevalent.
“He said, ‘Oh, everything dies that comes here, the birds, ducklings and it’s because we have botulism.’ I wondered if my dogs would be OK. We came on a Saturday and on Sunday morning we discovered a very ill little dog. She was under the care of a vet from Companion Veterinary Clinic and with medication he prescribed, she appeared to begin the road to health one week later.”
Mayo concluded, “There is nothing I can do about the child I stupidly brought with me. We will go for a picnic at another park next week.”
On May 12, Mayo got a call from a man who identified himself as head of the parks, she said.
“He said they would never let dead animals lie around and they pick them up when they die,” she said. “He said he was going to speak to the young man at the gate who gave me the wrong information.
“So, he denied everything. He was quite arrogant but not convincing. I did tell him I have the vet bill and diagnosis about my dog, and I can get a list of dead animals from the girl who was with me. He asked me where I got my information (regarding other complaints made against the park), I told him to look at the Valley Voice. He said, he would never read the Voice for accurate information. Since he is the main person, I suggested he read it. Now it’s a he said, she said.”
2008 -The Beginning Of the End
In 2008, a local farmer, John Rogers, presented the Tulare County Board of Supervisors (TCBOS) with a letter and testified at the public hearing against building the Tulare County History of Farm Labor and Agriculture Museum. The county was hoping to receive a million dollar grant to help build the new museum. But Rogers felt the county was ram-rodding the grant through the system. Even then, Mooney Grove was suffering from years of deferred maintenance and Rogers feared that spending money on the farm and labor museum would make the situation worse. His words were prophetic.
During public workshops to inform county residents about the museum, the RMA said that the county was poised to receive a huge state grant and they did not want to lose it. The grant was to provide $1.7 million toward building the new museum, and the county would have to spend $1.3 million.
Rogers has since been told those numbers are not correct, but after repeated requests he has not been provided with the updated numbers. It is possible that the county actually had to pay more than $1.3 million in matching funds. On top of the cost of building the museum, Tulare County Park and Recreation money has to pay for staffing, displays and general maintenance of the museum instead of maintaining the park.
It’s Not the Drought
Rogers drives through the park a couple times a week but says that the situation just makes his blood boil. He said everything concerning the condition the park is so outrageous and none of it makes sense. On one of his drives he ran into Neil Pilegard, head of the Tulare County Parks and Recreation. Rogers suggested to Pilegard that he give the grounds a good soaking before the coming summer heat. Pilegard told him that the county has let three of its wells go dry and that only one well is left. Rogers told him that one well is not sufficient to water the park and that many of the redwoods would die. Maybe not the older ones, but the younger redwoods would not survive the summer.
Mooney Grove is a county-run park within the Visalia city limits, so it has to comply with Visalia’s Stage 4 water restrictions. But those water restrictions suggest parks reduce their water use by 20 percent. According to the Visalia Times-Delta, during Supervisor Phil Cox’s state-of-the-county address in January of 2014, he said, “Tulare County Parks Manager Neil Pilegard had already taken it upon himself to initiate ways to cut down water use in county parks. In February and March, county parks had about a 90 percent reduction of water use.”
Even though the Governor of California declared a drought emergency last year, Visalia continues to issue approximately 40 pool permits a month, Tulare County has approved 2,700 new well drilling permits and Exeter farmers have recently put barren land into agriculture production by planting new row crops and pistachios. Without any problem, Rogers irrigates his groves that are located close to the park. What frustrates Rogers about the slow death of Mooney Grove is that he knows that the park sits above one of the strongest aquifers in Tulare County.
Systematic Destruction of the Park
Within the park, the grass is brown, young trees are dying, the bathrooms are disgusting, the benches, fountains, picnic arbors and bridges are disintegrating, and the pond is a litter-strewn, stagnant green soup. There is a hypothetical promenade around the pond where part of the sidewalk is underwater and the rest is covered in goose poop.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors places the blame on money, the drought and geese. When compared to Visalia’s Plaza Park and Tulare’s Del Lago Lake, they have clean lakes where several fishing tournaments take place every year. Both parks are experiencing the same financial restraints, drought and problems with geese. The respective managers said that they keep their ponds clean of algae and the staff is instructed to immediately remove any dead animals from the water. The staff is also instructed to clean up the goose poop every day.
Neither would give their opinion of Mooney Grove, but one park manager stated, “Neil Pilegard understands water issues, the problem is not the drought.”