In December of last year, Boeddeker Park reopened its doors to the Tenderloin, hoping to become a safe haven for Tenderloin residents, families, youth serving-agencies, and the community at large. Its $9.3 million renovation has transformed the park, originally opened in 1985, with a new open layout, playground, basketball court and clubhouse.
Set to celebrate its one-year anniversary from 11am-1:30pm this Friday, Dec. 11th, Boedekker appears to have hit the mark as a sanctuary for the neighborhood. A glance inside the large gates shows the park buzzing with conversation, youth playing basketball, and seniors enjoying a stroll around the park's perimeter.
Overlooking the park is Officer Ha, who keeps a watchful eye while still finding time to engage with youth like Elijah and his brothers, who come to the park religiously. "I like the swings and I like the hoops; I like to play here with my brothers," Elijah tells us. "We play tag, we wrestle, we play basketball and catch."
Elijah shows off his baseball skills for Officer Ha.
Officer Ha's presence has been well-received by both youth and parents alike, supporting the efforts of anchor tenants Boys and Girls Club, Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA and Tenderloin Safe Passage to establish a safe community where a kid can be a kid, says Ha.
"With us being here, it kind of deterred a lot of criminal activity that was here before and it made it known that it's not allowed here and that we are not going to tolerate it," Ha says. "Being here for the kids, they've become a little more relaxed; they don't feel like they have to constantly watch out for themselves."
During the morning shift, Ha says he sees everyone from older adults doing aerobics to kids and young adults stopping by to play basketball or to simply just hang out out and enjoy their surroundings.
Edna, who attends the YMCA'S after-school program, sits on a bench by the monkey bars reading a book. She remembers the old park, which she used to visit less frequently. "Before, it had the monkey bars, but it was kind of dirty. Now it's nice; it's big. We are comfortable and it's clean," she says, pointing to Boeddeker's Celebration Garden. "We do gardening over there; there is a field and we play football or soccer, and there is a basketball court and it's so much fun."
A senior takes advantage of the park's walking path.
A group of parents socialize as they watch their children play on the play structure. "It's not like before, the drug dealers inside selling stuff," says Santos, one father. "Now it's one hundred percent better than before; it's safe. There is a policeman here that is always watching, and that's good for the park and good for the kids. We can all enjoy the park—that's really nice."
Teenager Hazieo doesn't live in the Tenderloin anymore, but attends school in the neighborhood. "I usually just come here to be with my friends and just hang out, and I play basketball here every day after school," he says. "I like it; my friends are all here."
With an anticipated 150 expected to be in attendance this Friday, Boeddeker Park's one-year anniversary celebration promises a little something for everyone. Safe Passage, Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and Friends of Boeddeker Park will be providing Zumba (at 11am), gardening activities, music, board games, and ping pong (weather permitting). Free raffle tickets be handed out, with prizes of gift certificates to Target and local businesses; winners will be announced at 1pm.
If you can't make the party but still want to check out the park, hours are 9am to 7pm daily.