EL MONTE — Responding to complaints from neighbors and citing budget problems, the City Council last week rejected plans to build a park in the northern part of the city on land between Arroyo High School and the Rio Hondo Wash.
Neighbors had opposed the Park Arroyo proposal, which had been in the planning stages for at least five years, because they feared that the park would attract what one opponent called "transients and dope and bums."
Parks are "magnets for homeless people and people who want to start trouble," said J. Howard Rigdon, who led the effort to defeat the park proposal.
Residents also said they feared that the park would create traffic and parking problems in their neighborhood.
Although the city had raised about $722,000 in state and federal grants to develop the park, council members expressed concerns that the city could not afford to maintain it, at an estimated cost of at least $80,000 the first year and more than $100,000 a year later, according to Mayor Donald McMillen.
"We just aren't in a position to afford to put out the money to operate the park after we get it," McMillen said.
The city is facing a budget shortfall of $3.5 million at the end of this fiscal year and has dipped into its $10-million reserve fund to cover expenses.
The money that has been raised to build the park will be used to make improvements on some of the city's eight existing parks, McMillen said. Much of the money can be used only on parks.
Neighbors who submitted a petition to the council earlier this year opposing the plan said they are relieved by the council's action.
"It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't live so close, but it's practically in my front yard," said Thomas A. Bynum, who lives on Cherrylee Drive, across the street from the site. "I don't have anything against parks, but it's just a bad place for a park."
Design Plan Rejected
The council earlier this year rejected a design plan for the park that would have located its entrance on the east side on Cedar Avenue, near the homes of those objecting to the plan. However, hope for the park was kept alive when the council asked the city's Recreation and Parks Department to develop alternative plans.
But the council voted against the proposal Tuesday without considering the alternatives developed by the department.
One plan called for full development of the 10.4-acre strip of land, including tennis courts, picnic areas and a nature trail. Another would have developed only 6.4 acres, and left only grass on the remaining land, closest to the neighborhood. A third plan called for planting grass on the entire site. All of the proposals would have put the entrance to the park on the west on Tyler Street, well away from the nearest homes.